Who Knew a Nissan Leaf Was the Secret to Finding Cheap Speed?

Of course, having a 150ish hp motorcycle engine in the back helps with that.

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Two nerds talk about the motorcycle engine-powered white Nissan Leaf behind them. One has an orange beanie.
Screenshot: SuperfastMatt via YouTube

Motorcycle-engine-powered cars are one of those ideas that sound amazing the first time you start considering them but start to fall apart quickly after that once you have to start thinking of the details that make them work in real life.

Take, for example, YouTuber SuperfastMatt and his well-known Honda S600 with a CBR1000RR engine. At first glance, you have a tiny, super lightweight Japanese roadster with a physically small but very powerful literbike engine that makes something like three times the power the car had when stock. Sounds good, right? What about things like a reverse gear or, y’know, torque?

This Nissan Leaf Is Hiding A 13,000 RPM Secret

This mostly-motorcycle-engine-powered Nissan Leaf answers those questions in a seriously interesting way — by becoming essentially a plug-in hybrid. How does that work? Well, to start, the electric drivetrain for the Leaf is compact and under the front hood, leaving the rear hatch area wide open for an internal combustion powertrain from a Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R, fuel tank and all.


From there, the two separate drivetrains complement each other well. The bike motor has very little low-down torque, and its gearbox and clutch weren’t designed for getting several thousand pounds of car going from a dead stop. It also never needed a reverse gear. The Leaf’s electric drivetrain offers maximum torque from zero rpm, making it perfect for wafting around at low speeds. Also, the Leaf came from the factory with reverse because, y’know, it’s a car.

Getting the two to work together required a Lexus subframe, a mechanical engineering degree and a bunch of patience. The end result of that work and patience is a screaming, canyon-carving hatchback that addresses the shortcomings of both of its parents, resulting in something greater than them both.