Last month Mitsubishi announced that it will be running an i-MiEV based race car up Pikes Peak in this year’s version of the famed Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Now comes word that six time consecutive winner and current Pikes Peak course record holder Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima (you can see his record run from last year below) will be attacking the mountain in another electric car, sponsored by Japan’s Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles, a trade group of over 170 companies with an interest in EVs, including Toyota and Tesla. Winning an event six times in a row in any form of motorsport is impressive. Doing that and setting a course record at 62 years old is even more impressive. As the saying goes, he’s big in Japan. Tajima has joined the APEV as a “commissioner” and his high profile will be used to promote EVs and APEV’s environmental and humanitarian efforts, including aid to victims of last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
Those environmental and humanitarian efforts ironically come as Bloomberg reports that EV’s have lost some of their green sheen in Japan in the wake of the tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. EVs are dependent on electricity generated by power plants and the meltdowns at Fuskushima and the subsequent idling of dozens of Japanese nuclear power plants, only now being restarted, have raised concerns about electricity as a means of private propulsion. In the case of a power outage, you may be able to keep your food from getting spoiled by running your refrigerator off of your EV, but you won’t be able to recharge it and drive to someplace that has power. Japan has put plans to have nuclear power provide 50% of the nation’s electric power on hold. Currently one third of Japan’s electricity is supplied by splitting atoms. Reliable electric power isn’t the only factor that could hamper acceptance of EVs in Japan. Radioactivity taints everything it touches, literally and figuratively, and the Fukushima meltdowns have not helped with EV’s green image.
Tajima is certainly no novice and this isn’t going to be just a publicity stunt as Team APEV and Tajima aim to set a new overall record in the EV racer. The idea is not too dissimilar from that of the DeltaWing Lemans effort – leapfrog conventional designs in a high profile motorsports event and people will have to pay attention to you.
No word yet on technical specs. It’s a purpose built, close bodied race car, looking a bit like a LeMans prototype. The car’s drawing wears a Tajima badge so I think it’s safe to assume that Tajima Racing will be prepping this car just as with Monster’s record setting Suzuki SX4 last year. It’s also safe to assume that GoPro, one of Tajima’s sponsors, will be shooting his attempt like they did last year, though with the rollout of the GoPro 3D Hero system, I’ll probably be able to nudge you to watch any possible record run in 3D.
Events like the Pikes Peak climb are perfect for showcasing EVs because it’s a fixed distance, essentially a time trial where you’re not concerned with conserving energy. Hill climbs also favor electric motors’ torque characteristics. In that way, the PPIHR is not unlike drag racing, another motorsport where electric propulsion is gaining advocates. Nissan entered a Nissan Leaf last year and Summit Motorsports set the current EV record last year in a scratch built racer built around an AC Propulsion drivetrain, 12 minutes and 20 seconds. If “Monster” does match or beat his current record, that will shave almost 3 minutes off of the EV record. Last year he became the first racer to make it up Pike Peak in less than 10 minutes, at 9:51. From the looks of the drawing of the Team APEV car and the size of the front air intake, the batteries, electronics and motor will be generating some heat during that ten minutes or so.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS