Nissan Quietly Races Longer-Range LEAF Prototype in Spanish EcoSeries

Imagine you’re an automaker planning to enter your first production car in Spain’s EcoSeries race series. Designed to reward efficient driving rather than just finishing first, the EcoSeries is a great way to see just what’s possible in your car. But how do you ensure that your cars have the best possible chance of winning?  Do you pick the smallest, lightest driver, pump the tyres up extra-hard, or reprogram the car’s on-board motor controller to be optimised for the ultimate efficiency?

Or do you double up the size of your car’s stock battery pack to extend the range of your car to new highs?

According to Inside EVs, that’s exactly what Nissan’s Barcelona Technical Centre employees did earlier this year, entering the Catalonian-based series with a prototype Nissan LEAF fitted with a massive 48 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

Open to various different types of vehicles from conventionally-fuelled road-legal cars and alternative-fuelled vehicles like EVs all the way to prototype and pre-production vehicles, the capacity-enlarged LEAF was entered for the final race of the series, which took place at the Cursa Parc Motor Castellolí a little over three weeks ago.

Competing alongside two stock Nissan LEAFs and a Mercedes A-Class E-Cell, the 48kWh-equipped LEAF was apparently able to give the Mercedes A-Class a tough time in the 1-hour race, coming a close second to the 36 kWh-equipped Merc.

Would you like a longer-range LEAF? We would.

Would you like a longer-range LEAF? We would.

While Nissan remains unusually quiet on the car’s entry in the competition, the presence of the 48 kWh LEAF does make it seem as if Nissan is seriously considering to up the range and capacity of future models.

Of course, entering a higher-capacity  prototype LEAF into a closed-circuit race is completely different from building a production-ready LEAf with double the range. While we don’t know how the extra capacity pack was added to the competition LEAF by Nissan’s Barcelona Technical Centre, we’d guess that the extra range came at the expense of either rear seats, or the load bay.

Moreover, adding an additional 300 kg of battery pack — the approximate weight of the existing LEAf battery pack — most certainly had an effect on the competition car. The equivalent of driving a fully-laden car with three extra passengers, we’re sure the extra capacity didn’t exactly double the range but perhaps extended it by 50 percent.

it’s worth noting however, that this particular scenario would only happen if Nissan’s engineers were using existing technology. It’s entirely plausible that as well as testing a larger double-capacity pack, Nissan’s engineers were using a battery pack made of lighter yet higher-density cells than found in the current Nissan LEAF. If that were the case, it’s conceivable the extra capacity made little or no difference to interior space or handling.

Of course, at the moment, talk of a larger-capacity pack is pure speculation. But it makes sense that Nissan, which has sold more than 83,000 LEAFs to date worldwide, is examining larger capacity packs to enable it to compete with automakers like General Motors and Tesla, both of which have promised to bring an affordable, 200+ mile range car to market within seven years.

For now though, we’ll just dream. A 48-kilowatt hour LEAF, with the potential to have twice the range…

Would you buy one? What do you consider the best range to be for an EV? Let us know in the Comments below.

(No, the images aren’t of the racing LEAF as we’re waiting copyright approval. They’re of some Spanish LEAFs!)


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