EVs in motorsport | 2021 World EV Day
September 9 might be just another day in many people’s lives, but in the mind of a petrolhead, this day celebrates the future of automobiles as we know it. September 9 marks ‘World EV Day’ and yes, today, we celebrate our favourite objects going silent, going green and potentially going faster. Electricity is claiming to be the next ‘fuel’ for the vehicles of the future and pretty much every automobile manufacturer is aiming to make more and more EVs. And this electric vehicle revolution is driven by technology, technology that is born from the realm of motorsport.
To gain more knowledge of EV architecture, automobile companies are actively participating in motorsports involving electric drivetrains. Motorsport allows companies to test future EV platforms to its limits, bringing out flaws that can be worked on before the technology hits full-scale production further down the line. So today, we look at some of the motorsport categories that help shape the EV future.
Before we get into it, we have to divide e-motorsports into two simple categories. First, we have the Open Category Series and then we have the All-Electric Series. Let us see what differentiates the two.
Open Category Series
In this format of racing, the electric vehicles rub shoulders with their fuel-drinking counterparts and compete on equal terms. This format of racing also allows us to see the progress made by EV technology with the IC engined dinosaurs being the benchmarks. With this, we now look at some of the major Open Series Categories in which EVs actively participate.
1. Pikes Peak Hill Climb
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, also known as ‘The Race to the Clouds’ is an annual automotive hill climb event that happens in Colorado, USA. The hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak takes us through a 19.99km track with 156 turns, climbing from 1440m above sea level at the starting line, all the way to 4300m at the finish line.
Pikes Peak Hill Climb was sanctioned in 1916 and what you might know is that electric vehicles have been making the iconic climb since as far back as 1983. Fast forward to 2013, which was the first year when an electric motorcycle won the two-wheeled division. The record was set by Carlin Dunne riding the Lightning Motorcycle LS-218 Electric Superbike with a time of 10:00.694 minutes. At the time, it also set the new course record for the two-wheeled class.
2018 was probably a more important year for EVs since the all-electric Volkswagen I.D.R Pikes Peak Prototype set the (still standing) course record of 7:57.148 minutes with Romain Dumas in the driver’s seat. Since then, electric-powered vehicles have actually turned the tables on their gas-powered cousins due to the power of the ICE being affected by the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
2. Isle of Man TT
The Isle of Man TT is one of the toughest (and scariest) races on the motorsport calendar. It is a paradise for anyone wanting to push motorcycle racing to its absolute limits. The ‘TT Zero’ category was kick-started in 2010, allowing electric motorcycles to compete on the hallowed tarmac. Mark Miller was the first TT Zero winner riding the MotoCzysz E1pc, setting a time of 23:22.89 minutes with an average speed of 155.817kmph. In 2019, Michael Rutter set a much faster time of 18:34.172 minutes with an average of 196.195kmph, astride the Mugen Shinden Hachi / Bahams Mugen motorcycle.
While the electric motorcycles are yet to surpass the regular IC engines, with the track record for the latter standing at 9:44.963 minutes. But the level of progress in regard to EVs hints that the day is not far away.
3. Paris-Dakar Rally
In January 2017, a pure electric car by the name of ‘Acciona 100% EcoPowered’ participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally and managed to complete the entire 9000km route through the countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia -- which in itself is quite an achievement. The vehicle was bespoke in every aspect with a 250 kW e-motor (335bhp) with a 150 kWh battery.
Now, if you really don’t like the idea of racing cars going past you making a bucket full of noise, then these all-electric series might just be your cup of tea. The championships under this umbrella are exclusive to electric vehicles and as time progressed, some have secured a global audience and stand toe-to-toe with many ICE-only championships.
1. Formula E
Formula E is arguably the pinnacle of the electric motorsport world. The series was inaugurated in 2014 and since then, the cars have improved exponentially. To paint you a picture of their performance, the current 2021 cars churn out 200 to 250kW (268 to 335bhp) of power. The race takes place on tight (usually street-based) circuits for 45mins plus one lap.
Mahindra Racing participates in Formula E and has been a part of the championship since its inception. With season eight around the corner, Formula E has announced the introduction of the Gen3 cars which are expected to boost power outputs to 300-350kW (402-469bhp). 2022 may also see the introduction of ‘flash-charging’ which will allow pitstop recharge during a race, potentially allowing for longer races too.
2. Moto E
Moto E started its journey in 2019 and since then, it has been a support series to Moto GP. It is essentially a one-make championship that uses the Energica Ego Corsa motorcycle, manufactured by Energica Motor Company. It boasts of a synchronous oil-cooled AC motor with permanent magnets churning roughly 161bhp and 200Nm of torque. It also has the ability to accelerate from 0-100kmph in three seconds and reaches a top speed of 270kmph.
Apart from the first season, Moto E has hosted seven races each year and currently, Alessandro Zaccone leads the championship with 80 points. Six races are over so far, and the final race is at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli on September 18.
3. Extreme E
Extreme E is an FIA-sanctioned international off-roading series that started in April 2021 and races in remote locations like the Saudi Arabian desert, the Amazon jungle and the Arctic. The series chooses these locations to raise awareness about climate change too. Moreover, the sport also maintains a "Legacy Programme" which aims to provide social and environmental support for the locations it races in. The sport also mandates that the teams have one female and one male driver with responsibilities being divided equally between the two.
The Spark Odyssey 21 electric SUV is the standard vehicle for all and is manufactured by Spark Racing Technology. The SUV weighs 1780kg and churns roughly 550bhp from its twin motors. This allows it to accelerate from 0-100kmph in 4.5 seconds. The 2021 championship will host 5 races with the fourth being the Sardinia X-Prix on September 23.
Vehicles have been an important part of modern human history, but we are now at perhaps the cusp of the biggest revolution in vehicles. With the change to electrics already in motion, we take today as a milestone on our journey towards an electric future while at the same time, see it as a reminder of why we are going through with the change in the first place. So, on that note, evo India wishes you a very happy World EV day!