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With a top speed of well under 100 miles per hour and a zero-to-sixty time pushing 13 seconds, the all-electric Nissan Leaf can hardly advertise neck-snapping performance. But thanks to a little aerodynamic tweaking – and a strict diet – Nissan has transformed the Leaf from an eco-friendly hatchback to an exciting concept racecar.

Shown in a press release ahead of an actual debut this week at the New York International Auto Show, the Leaf NISMO RC – for "Racing Competition" – features the Leaf's standard 107-horsepower engine, but uses weight reduction and aerodynamic improvements to attain a zero-to-sixty time of 6.8 seconds. And while it's just a concept for now, Nissan says that the Leaf NISMO RC may pave the way for the future of zero-emission race cars – and even a spec racing series.

"The Nissan Leaf NISMO RC will serve as a rolling laboratory for the accelerated development of EV and aerodynamic systems, as well as a platform for the development of a new green motorsport series," said Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas. Tavares went on to say that it's not just Leaf owners who are embracing the hatchback's cutting-edge technology, noting that, "we believe the same potential exists in the motorsport world as well, with Nissan proud to be first on the starting grid."

To save weight, the Leaf NISMO RC sheds its trunk, rear seat, rear doors, audio and navigation systems, carpeting, and other amenities like power windows and sound-deadening materials. But in spite of these major changes, the NISMO RC's family resemblance to the Leaf is clear, with the EV's characteristic headlights, windows, and side profile intact.

All the weight saving has helped the Leaf NISMO RC weigh in around 40 percent lighter than its road car counterpart – but Nissan has done more than just shed weight to make its plug-in racer competitive. Major changes have been made to the rest of the car, from moving the drive wheels to the rear to replacing traditional body panels with a three-piece carbon fiber shell to adding 18-inch six-spoke wheels. The Leaf NISMO RC even features a huge, race car-style wing on the back to improve downforce.

Nissan says that in full competition mode, the Leaf NISMO RC can run for about 20 minutes before running out of juice. That may not quite be long enough for a cup race series, however, when you factor in that a pit stop will take around 30 minutes – just enough to recharge the electric race car using Nissan's available quick charge function. Either way, with the Leaf NISMO RC, Nissan has created an electric car can save the planet and still be exciting to drive.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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