Nissan has revealed a highly innovative petrol engine that will feature in its Garage 56 entry into the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.

The new ZEOD RC will become the first car in the history of the race to complete a full lap on electric power in the race later this year, with plans to complete one lap per stint using the electric motor fitted to the car.

When not running on electric power, Nissan has confirmed that the ZEOD RC will run with a unique 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbo engine so small that it could fit into an overhead locker on an airliner.

The engine will weigh in at just 40kg and measures just 500mm in length by 400mm in length.

Despite its small size, the engine will produce an astonishing 400 horsepower and has a better power-to-weight ratio that the new units being introduced into F1 this season.

"Our engine team has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion engine," Darren Cox, Nissan's Global Motorsport Director, said. "We knew the electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le Mans but our combined zero emission on demand electric/petrol power plant is quite a stunning piece of engineering.

"Nissan will become the first major manufacturer to use a three-cylinder engine in major international motorsport. We're aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focussing on downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in Nissan road cars of the future.

"Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in regards to every aspect of the car - power train, aerodynamics and handling. For the power train we have worked closely with the team at Total to not only reduce friction inside the engine, but within all components of the power train.

"Friction is the enemy of horsepower and tackling that has been one of the efficiency targets we have concentrated on heavily."

Nissan is now working on an extensive testing programme ahead of the race in June.