NY LIVE: Nissan takes Leaf racing with Nismo RC RWD electric prototype!

Nissan has decided to jump start the 2011 New York Auto Show by revealing a radical new prototype: the Leaf Nismo RC!

Until today, the last thing Nissan wanted consumers to associate with its eco-minded Leaf was racing - the key phrase being, "until today."

Preempting the new product blitz that is sure to follow this week with both the Shanghai and New York Auto Shows, Nissan has decided to jump start the week by revealing what they are calling a purpose-built prototype that comes complete with the in-house performance Nismo tuning and RC (racing competition) badging.

While the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC certainly shares much in common with the standard Leaf electric vehicle, such as its lithium-ion batteries, but the Nismo RC also very much has a list of tricks of its very own. For instance, with racing in mind Nissan moved the driving wheels to the rear, rather than the front, and mounted them under a fully carbon fiber monocoque bodywork.

The light-weight carbon fiber body work can be removed in three sections: front, middle and rear. windows are fixed, the rear sports a driver-adjustable wing and LEDs can be found both in the headlamp and taillamp housings for efficient output. Other key details include a double-wishbone suspension for both the front and rear of the car, 18-inch six-spoke wheels and P225/40R18 Bridgestone racing tires.

If you parked a production version of the Leaf next to its racing pedigree Nismo RC variation, one would notice that the race car has a 3.9-inch shorter wheelbase, yet is .8 inches longer overall and a substantial 6.7 inches wider for better stability. But the most dramatic change of all comes in the area of height, as the race car sits a full 13.8 inches lower than the street car, and weighs in at just 2,068 lbs - about 40 percent less than the street car!

Keeping efficient and sporty performance in mind, Nissan and the Nismo engineers decided to move the battery pack, electric motor and inverter to the middle of the car. This relocated power plant is good for 107 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which can be charged to 80 percent capacity in just 30 minutes with a quick charging point.

How far and fast will it go?
Just as production street cars with electric powertrains struggle to boast comparable top speeds or ranges of gas powered cars, so does the Lead Nismo RC, as it is limited to a top speed of just 93 miles per hour, and an expected driving time of 20 minutes at racing speeds. While the top speed and operating time may be a bit disappointing compared to traditional cars, the zero-to-60 time of 6.85 seconds is impressive.

Where to go from here?
Nissan says that the Nismo RC is intended to show the potential of zero emissions powertrains in all areas of motoring, including motorsports. Nissan hopes to continue development and testing with this prototype, and the automaker says it is considering use of the car in competition racing in the future.

Be sure to check back for live photo updates from the New York Auto Show which kicks off tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19.

Live Images