By on July 26, 2011


Between Nissan’s Leaf racer and a new EV-only racing cup, electric auto racing has been coming along in recent months, although significant challenges remain. For one thing, batteries are still extremely heavy, and for another, they take a long time to recharge. Finally, thermal management issues conspire with both of these battery challenges to force EV races to be quite short. And in search of a solution, one team that’s entered into the EV Cup is looking to the original EV racers for inspiration: slot cars. Rather than getting hot and heavy with big batteries, figures Drayson Racing Technologies, why not charge the car as it’s racing at speeds upwards of 200 MPH? Luckily HaloIPT has come aboard the project, bringing its eponymous wireless Inductive Power Transfer technology to bear in order to create life-sized, wireless, slot-free slot cars.

A press release notes:

[HaloIPT's] partnership with Drayson Racing, which develops and races green motorsport technology, including electric vehicles, aims to pioneer the deployment of dynamic (in-motion) charging of zero emission electric vehicles. The racing cars, fitted with HaloIPT technology, will pick up power wirelessly from transmitters buried under the surface of the road or race track; transferring power directly to the vehicle’s electric battery, ensuring that the vehicle receives constant charging on the move. This innovation is made possible because HaloIPT’s tried and tested technology provides a significant tolerance to misalignment over the transmitter pads, automatically adjusting for changing vertical gap. The system has the ability to intelligently distribute power: ensuring a consistent delivery of power at speed.

The EV Cup isn’t involved yet, so don’t hold your breath for high-speed cordless charging just yet… in the meantime, Drayson and HaloIPT are developing a trackside inductive charging system to replace “internal combustion engine and fuel pit stops.” But it’s clear what Lord Drayson is dreaming of, when he says

Dynamic wireless charging will be a real game-changer, enabling zero emission electric vehicles to race over long periods without the need for heavy batteries. This is a milestone innovation that will have a dramatic effect not just on racing but on the mainstream auto industry. We’re looking forward to putting this technology through its paces as it charges electric race cars at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Research on wireless charging for mainstream cars is being conducted (so to speak) by Korean and German researchers, GM, Toyota, Google, and others. Motorsport seems like an ideal place to validate the technology, but ultimately the real challenge will be figuring out how best to deploy it. The public/private debate over charging on public roads alone could be huge. For now though, the goal of getting a race with on-track inductive charging seems like challenge enough…

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10 Comments on “EV Racing: Saved By Scalextric?...”


  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Since inductive charging is the least efficient means of charging these ‘pads’ will have to be quite powerful if they’re going to have any meaningful result for the duration of time one is in the ‘charge lane’ or after an hour’s worth of grocery shopping. Or is that “free charge if you spend $100″ going to be the marketing gimmick of the future? Thanks, but I’d rather they went back to double coupons.

    I’m not typically a tinfoil-hat type; I roll my eyes whenever I hear NIMBYs ranting about cell phone towers (while overlooking their own cell phones and home wifi access points), but these chargers are going to throwing a lot more power into the air and I wonder if this has been thought through. Can people with pacemakers drive in these lanes? Can they drive in the adjoining lane? At 3:35 in the video it says the pad is “completely safe to humans and animals”, and at 3:39 it states it can be “set to switch off if movement is detected in the immediate area” – presumably so you don’t zap the poor kitty. Well, which is it? Why add the cutoff feature if it’s so safe?

    It appears that owning an EV means every second of your time driving it is consumed with range and finding places to extend it. Well, at least no one will be texting anymore, they’ll be too busy staring at their battery gauges.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      “It appears that owning an EV means every second of your time driving it is consumed with range and finding places to extend it.”

      If you regularly drive on the edge of range, or have a highly variable commute that sometimes pushes you at or over the edge of range, then yes. That’s not a particularly comfortable way to live, and I doubt many owners that fit into this category will be happy with their purchase.

      I suspect the commuters who get the best use out of a 70-mile EV will be those who have a regular driving schedule < 50 miles or those who regularly drive < 20 miles but sometimes drive an additional 30-50 miles. Recharging at work on 240v will significantly extend the comfortable driving range, but that's not an option for most.

      The comfortable driving range will go up as battery prices fall and technology improves. Someone that is not well-served by a 70 mile EV may find that a 120 or 140 mile EV suits their needs quite well.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    EV motorcycle racing however is both real and progressed massively in just the last year.

    Last year at Laguna, the best EV motorcycle was 1:45. This year, it was 1:31 in qualifying. And Steve Rapp, the rider, walked away with a victory, involving a warm-up lap, 8 race laps, and a victory lap…

    The same rider lapped his BMW superbike at 1:27 in suprebike qualifying.

    The MotoGP bikes: the best bikes in the world with the best riders were only 1:21…

    At the rate they are going, 5 years from now, the EVs will be faster than the MotoGP bikes!

    The biggest limit is they are still sprint races: 8 laps vs the 28 for a Superbike race.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      “At the rate they are going, 5 years from now, the EVs will be faster than the MotoGP bikes!”

      Taking two data points and projecting a trend line five years out is a teensy bit silly.

      Teams using the same rider and an upgraded bike were 6-10s faster than last year. Still a massive improvement, but the 14s gain year over year was a professional rider on a very fast bike. Most of the riders to this point have been very fast amateurs (often amateur-owners), but a professional rider can and will squeeze out a couple more seconds per lap. Expect to see most teams switch to professional riders where possible next year.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    It seems like swappable battery packs would be a much better analogue to IC racing than continuous inductive charging. Pull into the pit and swap packs, tires, etc. just like the pit stops made by IC race cars. A big part of the value of auto racing is real-world evaluation of cutting edge technology that trickles down to consumer products, and adding inductive charging to enough roadways to make it the answer to EV range issues is wildly impractical. Using racing to push the envelope on battery capacity, swapping and charging, as well as electric drive train efficiency could yield significant advances in EVs for general use.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      That’s the approach Audi is taking with the R18 (this year’s Le Mans 24H winner): it’s designed to accept quick-change Li-ion battery packs in the future, as an alternative to conventionally refueling the current TDI V6.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Green racing.

    Just when I thought the ecodorks couldn’t find another niche to utterly ruin with their fetish for forcing their joyless politically correct fantasies into every opening in sight, somebody came up with this.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      In some alternate universe, there has to be some sepia-toned blog post from 1911 where M1’s analogue was complaining about motorsports vs horse-racing.

      • 0 avatar
        campocaceres

        Agreed. Hasn’t the R&D that goes into racing produced many innovations that we enjoy in our own cars today? Seems to me that initiatives like this could eventually put some joy back in to EVs.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    The problem with inductive charging is the distance between the coils in the car and the coils in the road surface. The flux density across an air gap varies with distance, and the 4 to 8 inches from the road to the underside of a car is an extremely large distance for inductive anything.


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