Others see potential
Tajima isn’t the only racer who sees the potential for electric drive at Pikes Peak. Toyota Motorsports in Germany has developed its new TMG EV P002 to compete at the hillclimb, driven by multiple-time Japanese rally champion Fumio Nutahara. Two motors that produce a combine maximum power of 470 horsepower power the lightweight racer. The battery is an advanced 42 kW-h lithium ceramic design.
Mitsubishi is also entering a pair of racers. One will be an essentially stock version of the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric four-door sedan, which will be driven by off-road racer Beccy Gordon, who is the sister of NASCAR driver Robby Gordon.
The other car, driven by two-time Paris-Dakar Rally champion Hiroshi Masuoka is called the Mitsubishi i-MiEV Prototype and features a tube-frame chassis and three electric motors, one driving the front wheels and two driving the rears. The total power output is reported to be 320 horsepower with electricity supplied by a lithium-ion battery pack.
Joining these teams will be a 400-horsepower electric 1995 BMW M3, built by the California conversion shop EV West and driven by NASCAR veteran Boris Said. Last year’s electric class winner Hanawa will be back to defend his title and dirt-track racer Elias Anderson from Austin, Texas will compete for his first time at the hillclimb in an electrically powered special called the HCE Lightning XP12.
A hybrid first
Electric vehicle technology has proven itself in other racing venues. Over the June 16-17 weekend the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the 80th running of the French classic, was won by an Audi racing car powered by a diesel electric hybrid engine.
It was the first time hybrids have competed in the race, with the Audi hybrids finished first and second, after qualifying first and fifth. A more conventional Audi diesel-powered car, similar to last year’s winner, qualified second.
Gasoline-electric hybrid entries from Toyota qualified third and fifth, but neither finished the race. One Toyota hybrid was eliminated in an accident while the other suffered mechanical woes, but while they were running they were highly competitive with the world’s fastest gasoline-powered sports-racing cars.
Proof of concept
Other forms of motorsports are also seeing an electrical revolution. Formula One auto racing has incorporated an electrically-powered energy recovery system that stores energy used in braking and returns it via supplemental electric motors.
The record for fastest electric car is held by Ohio State University’s Buckeye Bullet at 314.958 mph. Electric drag racing motorcycles have gone over 200 mph and under 7 seconds in the quarter mile (with zero-to-60 mph times under a second).
For automakers, these events serve to showcase that electric vehicles can be more than simple commuter cars. According to Ludwig Zeller, Toyota’s General Manager of Electric and Electronics, “Electric powertrain technology in motorsports is still in its development phase but through projects like this one, [Toyota] is laying the foundations for the future of high-performance and motorsport cars.”
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