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Nissan Unveils 88 Pound 400-HP Race Car Engine 239

cartechboy writes "Motorsports used to be about lots of horsepower, torque, and big engines. In recent years there's been a shift to downsizing engines, using less fuel, and even using alternative energy such as clean diesel and hybrid powertrains. Today Nissan unveiled a 400-horsepower 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine that weighs only 88 pounds. This engine will be part of the advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain that will power the ZEOD RC electrified race car that will run in the 2015 LMP1 class during the race season. Nissan says the driver of the ZEOD RC will be able to switch between electric power and gasoline power with the batteries being recharged via regenerative braking. Even more impressive, according to Nissan, for every hour the ZEOD RC races, the car will be able to run one lap of the Le Mans' 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe on electric power alone. If true, that will make it the first race car in history to complete a lap during a formal race with absolutely zero emissions. If this all works, we could be witnessing the future of motorsports unfold before our eyes later this year when the ZEOD RC (video) makes its race debut at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours in June."
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Nissan Unveils 88 Pound 400-HP Race Car Engine

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:51PM (#46086181)


  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:55PM (#46086221) Homepage Journal
    the horsepower per hour of engine life? That thing looks like it'll last 20 hours before it needs rebuilding.
    • I think it will last at least 24 hours, since they're entering it in a 24 hour race.
      In 1984 Renault made a production car with a 1.5L engine producing 345hp called the R5 Maxi Turbo.
      Google group B rally cars.

    • by geekd ( 14774 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:16PM (#46086411) Homepage

      If it's going to run LeMans, then it'll have to last 24 hours. :)

      Kidding aside, it's not unusual for a race car engine to get rebuilt / replaced after every race. Heck, F1 used to use different engines for qualifying and the race. The qualifying engines were so lightweight and high strung they only lasted 12 to 15 laps. (F1 races are around 60 laps, depending on the track)

    • the horsepower per hour of engine life? That thing looks like it'll last 20 hours before it needs rebuilding.

      A point the story ignores. Any idiot can get buttloads of power out of an engine if it doesn't have to do so for very long. Two-stroke engines are particularly good for this if fuel consumption and exhaust emissions are minor considerations.


  • Series hybrids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:58PM (#46086249) Homepage
    If you're going to build a series hybrid, why bother with pistons and cranks? Just make the turbo bigger and you have... a gas turbine. Use it to drive a big alternator and viola! The turbine can run at constant speed and be optimised for that one speed - the rest of the drive train is purely electrical. Someone should at least test the concept.
    • by stox ( 131684 )

      Bingo, I think that will be the next wave.

    • There are buses that do just that. The problem is its not very reliable and starting gas turbines takes a lot of fuel. []

      • starting gas turbines takes a lot of fuel

        Why? Just spin it up to speed using the electric motor you've got strapped to it anyway!

        • The motor/generator isn't connected to the main shaft that's connected to the compressor. It's connected to a separate shaft spun by the exhaust.
          Spinning that is only going to lower pressure in the combustion chamber by sucking air through it.

          You're forgetting the reliability problems too.
          Do you know how often they have to swap out engines in the M1 Abrams tank, despite the air filters? They're also less fuel efficient than diesel engine tanks.
          The high temperatures, pressures and stress on the components ma

          • Do you know how often they have to swap out engines in the M1 Abrams tank, despite the air filters? They're also less fuel efficient than diesel engine tanks.

            Part of that is the age of the M1A1 Abrams. WHEN it was designed the turbine system was state of the art and produced far more power in less space than diesels of that generation could ever hope for.

            I've read some possible projects to upgrade the tank, ranging from stuffing a modern diesel in here to putting in an updated turbine to making the tank a hybrid, at which point the turbine would swapped for a highly efficient fixed power one.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:10PM (#46086357)

      ... a gas turbine. Use it to drive a big alternator and viola!

      Gas turbine + alternator = small stringed instrument?

      • ... a gas turbine. Use it to drive a big alternator and viola!

        Gas turbine + alternator = small stringed instrument?

        No... gas turbine -> alternator + medium stringed instrument...

        He's saying the turbine will drive both. I'd pay to see that concert!

    • by M0HCN ( 2981905 )

      The problem with gas turbines is that small ones are not noted for efficiency (It has to do with the engineering tolerences of the compressor blade tip clearance among other things), and the bearings generally dislike the imposed accelerations when a high performance road car turns hard (Extreme gyroscopic loads). An electric drive chain with some secondary storage would however somewhat reduce the problems with horrible throttle response inherent in needing to get the mass flow up in sync with the extra fu

      • Rover cars experimented with small turbines back in the 60's, unfortunately the problems they found have not gone away.

        Right, but they were coupled directly and mechanically to the wheels. That's just not a good fit for a turbine. (My uncle was one of the designers of the Leyland Gas Turbine truck in the late 1960s - google it, it was pretty cool, if an experimental dead-end). But driving an alternator is a good fit. Use a bank of super capacitors as a buffer and you're good to go. Yes there are proble
      • The problem with gas turbines is ... the bearings generally dislike the imposed accelerations when a high performance road car turns hard (Extreme gyroscopic loads).

        Why not place the turbine with the shaft vertical?

        • Why not place the turbine with the shaft vertical?

          Because of hills and banked curves.

        • Why not place the turbine with the shaft vertical?

          It's bad no matter which way you put it, because vibrations are going to be transmitted into it and they are going to stress the bearings. Even with exhaust recirculation you're still producing an awful lot of excess exhaust, too, just throwing that power away.

        • bearings generally dislike the imposed accelerations when a high performance road car turns hard

          Well, since a jet fighter can pull far more G than any car, I'm thinking this is surely a solved problem.
    • Anybody else wonder why they're not using diesel engines for series hybrids?

      Run the engine at optimal speed and use it as a generator.

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        Extra cost and diminishing returns.

        Basically, diesel and electric motors are both more expensive, and hybrids already reduce the usefulness of the efficiency of diesels, and so using both just makes a more expensive car with less benefit than you'd think. Especially given a series hybrid only uses the ICE when the battery runs out, which for the majority of drivers of these fairly specific-use vehicles (i.e. best for commuting/short drives) should be the exception.

        Or for a specific example - a friend of mi

    • I looked into building one and tracked down a couple people that had done it. It works a lot better on paper than in the real world. The turbines are not as efficient or as powerful as the manufacturers make them out to be.

      A huge problem is loose debris on the road. Airports spend a ton of effort keeping debris off of their runways. A few pieces of gravel ingested into a turbine can destroy it.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:06PM (#46086333)

    The engine the guy in the picture is holding has no turbocharger on it.
    It's not going to produce 400hp without it. The other pictures have one.

    • And the other pictures still don't have the intercooler. It won't make 400HP without that either.

      So no, it's not really 88 pounds at 400HP. Unsurprising a company would fib in a press release, isn't it?

  • What sort of car racing is this for? Is there a motor race for hybrids?

    • Check the recent LeMans results. You'll learn something.

    • Re:Race car (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @10:40PM (#46087757)

      What sort of car racing is this for? Is there a motor race for hybrids?

      LeMans is an endurance race, making it to the end is a lot more important than going fast and in a race like LeMan's going fast is achieved by light weight rather than big engines.

      Endurance races are about managing resources, fuel and brake usage, managing the driver (ensuring they are fed and watered) and so forth.

      For those of us who don't have billions of dollars, check out the 24 hours of LeMons, an endurance race for cars under $500.

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:15PM (#46086407)

    Since the battery was charged by burning gasoline in the engine, how does that make it "absolutely zero emissions"?

    The rubber that comes off a tyre in one lap at speed should also qualify as pollution.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Not only that, but unless the driver can hold their breath for an entire lap, they're emitting that evil, anthropogenic global warming causing, greenhouse gas - CO2. Zero emissions? No.
  • by symes ( 835608 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:17PM (#46086417) Journal

    I hope these low/no emission races grow to rival formula 1 and and nascar. They are a great way to boost innovation and also encourage people to adopt the tech.

  • Thought Experiment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:26PM (#46086503)

    You attach a compressor to the exhaust pipe on a normal car. The exhaust is compressed and stored in a tank. The tank can hold the exhaust from one lap of a race. During a lap, no emissions are released. Would you have a "first race car in history to complete a lap during a formal race with absolutely zero emissions". No. You wouldn't. Whoever is claiming "zero emissions" is a fool. Altering the time or location when emissions are released does not make something zero emissions. How much nasty bunker oil was used to ship all the parts around the globe to make the damn thing? How many children in China will get cancer because they live next to the mine that produced all the rare earths that went into the magnets and electronics?

    Minimizing pollution is a noble goal. Making blatantly false and misleading statements to support your world view, biases or support your agenda is wrong on many levels.

    • The question is how fast will the car be for that lap? Dragging around a big old steel tank plus powering a badass compressor, or running on batteries that you have to drag around the rest of the race suggests that you have some real tradeoffs here.

    • Your point about the emissions is noted, but technically this engine already has a compressor attached to the exhaust. That is what a turbocharger is. Although it is driven by the exhaust to compress the intake air and not compressing the exhaust into a storage tank.
    • Ever stuck a banana in the tail pipe? You maintain pressure on the back end (exhaust) and the engine dies. An internal combustion engine runs on pressure differential between pistons and outside air pressure. Eliminate the outside air pressure with a device to maintain the pressure on the back end and the system won't run because the back pressure on the exhaust system prevents the intake manifold from drawing in fresh air (normally the hot exhaust exiting the tailpipe generates the suction necessary to dra

      • by ebonum ( 830686 )

        huh? I said run the exhaust into a compressor that then pushes all the exhaust into a storage tank. The air flow through the engine would be unchanged.
        This is a thought experiment. The fact that you are trying to compress large amounts of hot gasses (not easy), the tank size/weight, power and size requirements for the compressor are all ignored. The point is: tail pipe emissions are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to actual pollution generated/environmental impact of the system.

        • If you are running a compressor what is the point in using the hot corrosive gasses from the exhaust system? After all if your goal is to just collect the gas what the hell do you need a compressor for?

          I assumed you were suggesting that you recover some pressure by collecting the already pressurized gas, but doing so robs the engine of the pressure differential used to maintain the air flow in the engine. I misinterpreted that so I apologize, but at least with that faulty assumption you appeared to be tryin

        • A turbo work by recapturing as much energy from the exhaust to spin the intake compressor. It's why turbo chargers are more efficient than superchargers when in use and under load. Though both have bypass systems that let an engine run naturally aspirated if/when possible on modern vehicles, but I digress. However, you can create too much back-pressure in the exhaust as to cause a problem. Too much back-pressure and the engine runs extremely inefficient or outright dies. Either way, storing exhaust gasses t

  • Take the average 1400cc 4cylinder motorcycle engine, remove ALL of the transmission and cut that part of the cases off... BAM super light 400hp engine, once you add a turbo. People have been getting that much out of busas and zx14s for ages and they aren't all that unreliable. Also... ask the team if they would drop the entire hybrid system if they could do so without having to add the weight lost back and I bet they would. This is not the future of racing, its more like forcing it into racing.
  • Find one unused and strap it to a go kart or mini bike, mmmmooooooooooommmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaa

  • Ferrari F1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:36PM (#46086579)

    Ferrari claims that their 1.6 liter, V6 2014 F1 engine produces 600-650 HP with another 160 HP from the Energy Recovery System. Each driver gets just five engines for the 19 race season. []

    Technology marches on.

    • Yes and because of the FIA mandating two energy recovery systems and other changes, it will probably be the most unreliable year for F1 Engine manufacturers and constructors in quite awhile. It'll be great for the Drama and Bernie can make a few more bucks.

    • by ed1park ( 100777 )

      Ahem. From the article.

      "At a ratio of 4.5 horsepower per pound, the new engine even has a better power-to-weight ratio than the new turbocharged 1.6-liter V-6 engines to be used in Formula One this season."

  • by csumpi ( 2258986 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @07:51PM (#46086673)

    Nissan Unveils 88 Pound 400-HP Race Car Engine

    How about battery weight that drives this semi electric beast?

    • The battery would be small so it is probably light compared to a hybrid. If they have the money and space, they might even opt for super-capacitors. They're bulky but very light and waste far less power when charging / discharging.
  • I love alternative, cleaner energy sources, but lets be real. The emission was probably performed somewhere else, except if they can guaranty that the energy conversion and delivery process produced absolutely zero pollution
  • So could we scale that down and get a 10kg 100 kW engine that could be used as a range extender for an EV?

  • Maybe I'm kinda dumb, but since no one is touting how the hybrid tech provides any competitive advantage to Nissan's racer, I'm skeptical. Maybe it helps them skip a pit stop, but since none of the links mentions anything along those lines, I'm guessing not.

    I'm not saying Nissan shouldn't do this, with the Leaf they're heavily invested in EVs and this is great PR, but let's not pretend that in two years EVs will be dominating the racing world.
  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @10:24PM (#46087665)

    Motorsports used to be about... big engines

    As long ago as the 70's, we were able to get as much as 1,000hp per liter of engine displacement through the use of pure toluene and five or more atmospheres of boost (Can Am); squeezung ungodly amounts of horsepower from small engines isn't anything new.

  • Man, one of these in one of those little Smart cars. would be a bit of an issue.

The IBM purchase of ROLM gives new meaning to the term "twisted pair". -- Howard Anderson, "Yankee Group"