The one-off Nissan Leaf Nismo RC looks quick inside and out. Low roofline, carbon fibre tub, double wishbones at each corner and serious brakes. The rear bodywork lifts off like it does on most purpose-built mid-engine race cars.
Underneath is a completely standard Nissan LEAF powertrain, including its batteries. The latter are stored in an enormous carbonfibre box that’s actually part of the tub. Its walls are almost an inch thick because the one thing that you don’t want in an electric car is the batteries being disturbed.
The Leaf RC feels like a racer to sit in. Lots of carbon, bucket seat, beautiful drilled pedals and an array of switches. Only two pedals because there is no clutch. No gearbox, either, apart from the single-speed reduction gear.
To start the machine you flick a couple of toggle switches. Behind you the inverter emits a whining noise. In truth a 6.0-litre Jaguar V12 motor at fast idle would sound better. Or a Fiat 500 Abarth. Or my dad’s old Suffolk Colt lawn mower.
We’re at Goodwood, one of the country’s fastest and most demanding circuits. Not, however, an enormous challenge in the RC because the top speed is limited to 93mph.
However, as we whine out of the pitlane and attack Madgwick corner, it is soon revealed that a flat-to-the-floor lap might not be a good idea. The car has electric power steering that is not very well set-up. Manual steering on a 940kg should have been quite adequate. But odd steering is not the major problem. It’s the lack of engine noise and familiar throttle response that’s off-putting.
With race-car suspension and slick racing tyres sudden loss of connection with the Tarmac is unlikely, but there’s a feeling that if the Nismo-built car did strike out for the grass there wouldn’t be much you could do about it.
We only get four laps because the car has to come in and be charged ready for the next driver’s turn. Actually, it’s fast charged and then has to sit while a blower puffs cold air through the batteries to cool them. More than four laps might be a problem for the driver, too, because boredom would have begun to set in.
It’s going to take a lot for Nissan, or anyone else, to persuade Goodwood that electric road cars are a good idea. Electric racing cars, no chance. Watching electric racing cars? I’d rather mow the lawn.