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Back It Up: The Nissan Leaf Holds a Speed Record?

No action movie is complete without a high-speed chase filled with death-defying stunts. Often, real world physics are tossed out the window and replaced with dazzling special effects that seem impossible to replicate when driving a real car. High-speed reverse driving is no exception.

You've seen it in Bond movies, watched Mater from "Cars" show off his backup skills, and you can even catch Dom racing backwards in "The Fate of the Furious." But have you ever wondered how fast you can actually back up a car? As it turns out, electric cars are far better at this than traditional fossil fuel burners. And oddly enough, the Nissan Leaf holds a world record for it.


What gives the electric car the advantage? In a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, the motor doesn't spin the opposite way when backing up. The transmission's reverse gear spins the output shaft in the opposite direction, causing the car to move in reverse. Most of these vehicles have multiple forward gears, allowing you to reach highway speeds and beyond with relatively low RPMs. However, there is only a single reverse gear (and it's normally shorter than the forward gears), which means the engine RPM limits the car to low reverse speeds.

nissan leaf cutaway

When it comes to electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, there is no gear box, and the motor rotates in both directions. The direct-drive electric motor spins in one gear from a full stop to its top speed in forward and reverse.

Theoretically, the Leaf can travel at a top speed of 92 mph in reverse. Anyone who has operated a forklift knows why that can be very dangerous, as even the slightest movement of the steering wheel can throw you into a spin. That didn't stop stunt driver Terry Grant from breaking a world record on his first reverse run up the hill climb track in a Nissan Leaf at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012.

nissan leaf reverse

The Leaf broke the record for fastest car driven over a measured mile in reverse, averaging 55 mph on the hill climb run with Grant behind the wheel. See for yourself in the video below:

Instead of focusing on traditional electric vehicle features and benefits, Nissan's PR team cleverly boasted their bubbly commuter hatch as a motorsports champion of its own kind. Although it's unlikely the humble electric car will ever be the hero car of choice in an action-packed summer blockbuster, no other car can keep up with the Leaf as long as the taillights are facing the finish line.

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