HomeNewsNissan's fascinating 40 kg, 400 hp, suitcase-sized 3-cylinder engine

Nissan’s fascinating 40 kg, 400 hp, suitcase-sized 3-cylinder engine

Nissan is revolutionizing the automotive world with a three-cylinder engine weighing just 40 kg, capable of delivering 400 hp, yet the size of a suitcase. This engine, designed for the Le Mans 24-hour race, could well change our vision of future cars and performance.

Proud and smiling, Shoichi Miyatani, CEO and President of NISMO – Nissan – posed holding an internal combustion engine that, with just three cylinders, delivers over 400 hp of power.

An engine the size of a suitcase

I wouldn’t put it past you that the photo wasn’t a trick. What we do know is that this engine, given its dimensions, could be carried like a suitcase, like our carry-on luggage on the plane. Except that its 40 kilograms exceed the restrictions imposed by most airlines on in-flight luggage. Be that as it may, 40 kilograms is a spectacular figure for an engine that not only delivers massive power, but has been designed for a racing experience – to be present at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, no less.
Nissan has created an engine that, with just three cylinders, 40 kg of mass and the size of a suitcase, can deliver over 400 hp. A power-to-engine-mass ratio superior to that of Formula 1 cars of the time.
This 40 kg engine, the size of a suitcase, developed over 400 hp.

A 40 kg, 400 hp three-cylinder engine

This is a 1.5-liter in-line three-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and a huge turbocharger, running at 2 bar and capable of 100,000 rpm. But most impressive of all is the fact that this 50-centimeter-high, 40-centimeter-long, 20-centimeter-wide engine, the size of a suitcase and weighing 40 kilograms, delivers over 400 hp at 7,500 rpm and a maximum torque of 380 Nm.

Nissan designed this engine from A to Z. Although three-cylinder engines are commonplace today, this engine shared no components with any of the group’s other engines. What’s more, it was designed for use in a hybrid configuration. A configuration in which this engine would be directly coupled to a transmission, to which would also be coupled two electric motors of 110 kW each.

In this way, the car could run in all-electric mode, without the intervention of this three-cylinder engine, or in combustion mode, using this engine.

Nissan has designed this engine for a special project to be tested at the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Nissan has designed this engine for a special project to be tested at the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.

A three-cylinder at Le Mans

This engine will be one of Nissan’s proudest features when it unveils its project for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours. For a while, Nissan immersed itself in the most exotic and far-fetched “competition” projects, which were far from aiming to compete and therefore win races, but rather to research new solutions, taking advantage of Garage 56’s showcase at Le Mans.

First came the Deltawing. Then came the ZEOD RC with its 1.5-liter, 400 hp engine. Nissan had estimated that for eleven or twelve laps in combustion mode, regeneration would enable a complete lap of the La Sarthé circuit in electric mode, which is no mean feat.

In the end, Nissan reached a milestone. It was able to complete a fast lap in all-electric mode in 4 minutes and 22 seconds, a respectable time, albeit far from those achieved by the prototypes. And a top speed in electric mode of 300 km/h.
The complexity of the viability of such a motor, but above all its reliability and durability, or compliance with minimum fuel consumption and emissions, made the idea of such a motor on a road car difficult.

Memories of the 40 kg, 400 hp Nissan engine

Back then, many of us dreamed of the possibilities of this engine, outside the racetrack. And we dreamed of a certain NISMO signature eccentricity we could enjoy on the street. But, clearly, the possibilities of this engine beyond the Le Mans experience and the ZEOD RC were minimal. And ten years later, the ZEOD RC and the three-cylinder, 40 kg, 400 hp engine would be a story to remember.

We could go on at length about the difficulties such a project faces in reaching the road, starting with the cost of industrialization and the difficulties of making it viable. But let’s not forget how difficult it can be to make such an engine durable and reliable enough for a road car, or to achieve acceptable efficiency and emissions.

Nissan has always insisted on its partnership with Total and the importance of good engine lubrication to manage internal friction and stress on components.

Alan, editor-in-chief, born in 1964 in a picturesque small town in the south, has always been fascinated by the roar of engines and the shine of car bodies. From a young age, he spent hours flipping through his father's car magazines, dreaming of the cars he would one day drive. After obtaining his high school diploma, Alan decided to pursue his passion for automobiles by studying journalism, with the hope of combining his two loves: writing and cars.


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