Probably not a car you would expect to see participating in a rally.
Nissan has plenty of racing pedigree having entered the legendary 24 Hours Of Le Mans, but it very rarely gets its wheels dirty in the rugged world of rallying. That’s about to change though, as the automaker is entering this year’s Mongol Rally. But not with a car you would expect. No, it’s not a GT-R before you get too excited – it’s a Leaf EV. It's called the Leaf AT-EV, and while it’s based on the regular road-going Leaf, it’s been extensively modified by UK-based engineering company RML Group to tackle the tough terrain.
The Nissan Leaf AT-EV will be required to survive 10,000 miles of rough surfaces in a gruelling journey from the UK to Mongolia. To make sure it’s up to the task, the EV has been fitted with Speedline SL2 Marmora wheels wrapped in narrow Maxsport RB3 tires. Engineers have also fitted welded plates to the underside of the wishbones, along with braided brake lines, mudflaps and a 6 mm aluminium sump guard, all adding further protection from the unforgiving terrain. A roof rack has also been added to compensate for the Leaf’s small trunk, as well as an LED light bar allowing it to navigate the rally at night. To save weight, engineers removed the rear seats and seatbelts, shedding 70 pounds.
Electric Vehicle Advocate Plug In Adventures came up with the idea of modifying the Leaf as a way to endorse EVs at the rally. Co-founder Chris Ramsey will also be highlighting the benefits of electric cars at regular stops. “The Mongol Rally is our most challenging electric vehicle drive to date, but it’s one we’ve been planning for a number of years,” he said. “Not only will we face a dwindling number of EV chargers the further east we go, the terrain also becomes more difficult to navigate." While EVs aren't a common sight in rallying, they shouldn't be underestimated - an electric car conquered this year’s Dakar Rally, although it was half the distance the Nissan Leaf AT-EV will be facing in July.