By on January 16, 2011

TTAC doesn’t typically “do” motorsport, but we absolutely make exceptions for those racing-related stories that are of real significance to the larger industry or are simply too awesome to ignore (i.e. LeMons). The launch of the EV Cup may not seem particularly germane to the larger industry, as it will feature race-prepped Think EVs and open-wheeled Westfield iRacers (above), but it is significant in the sense that it is the first-ever all-electric racing series. But if you think about it, the lack of major OEM participation in this world-wide series is significant in and of itself. After all, wouldn’t Tesla be interested in promoting its Roadster as the epitome of EV excitement? Apparently not, as Autoblog Green reported way back in December of 2007 that Tesla admits its Roadster would make a poor track car because

The power electronics module (PEM) monitors a variety of the sensors in and around the battery pack and the air-cooled AC motor. If anything starts to get too hot, the PEM will automatically start limiting the power flow from the battery until things cool down. The result is that after a only a couple of laps of all-out track running, the motor will start to heat up and performance will be limited. On the road in real world conditions this won’t be a problem, because conditions generally won’t allow that sort of sustained extreme driving.

Oh well. After all, Tesla doesn’t want to be the “Silicon Valley Ferrari” anyway… that’s just too easy. But what about Audi, which is gunning for Tesla’s niche with two EV sportscars bracketing Tesla’s Roadster? Or Mercedes with its retina-searing SLS E-Cell? Or Ruf’s Greenster electrified Porsche? Seriously guys, it’s up to Think and Westfield to take the lead on this one?

Actually, these big boys do have an opportunity to mix it up in the EV Cup. In addition to the Think and Westfield one-make races, the series offers another opportunity for competition:

A third category, the Prototype EV class, will not feature races, but rather base its results on time trials that showcase the latest non-production electric vehicles on circuits through street and race courses.

But even here, there’s not a single major automaker with the cojones to sign up yet. Instead, it will be contested by such cars as the Lightning GT, Ginetta G50 EV, and Green GT. You’d think that, with the emergence of a new automotive technology (especially one that holds such promise for enthusiastic drivers), the resource-rich OEMs would be desperate to prove their products on the racetrack as they did in the heyday of gasoline technology. But rather than seeing their EVs as having something to prove, they clearly believe that racing can only expose their vehicles as underwhelming. So, rather than take the lead in proving and improving their EVs in the crucible of racing, major manufacturers are ceding this exciting arena to tiny racing stables. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is hardly in keeping with the best traditions of the automobile industry.

According to the EV Cup’s press release

Planned races in the EV Cup are being staged in the UK, Portugal, Spain, and the United States, with  a city street race also expected to take place in the near future .  Several tracks and dates in the UK have already been confirmed, including Silverstone – 6 August, Snetterton – 20 August, Rockingham – 10 September, and Brands Hatch – 23 October.  Race day will include qualifying rounds and all car batteries will be recharged at on-site facilities.  Each sprint race will be contested over 20 to 30 minutes of competitive laps.

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7 Comments on “All-EV Racing Series Launches This Year, Major OEMs AWOL...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    How ’bout Neil Young’s electric Lincoln?  Aww crap, wait, I heard that burned up in a warehouse fire. 

    I’d love to see them open the series to some of the amature stuff like electrified Pintos and such. 

  • avatar

    Perhaps EVs are one area where there wouldn’t be much technology transfer back to street cars. As the Tesla Roadster’s example shows, conditions on the track may be so extreme as to have no relevance to street cars. If that’s really the case, why would the big companies bother with the expense? Their EVs are already front an center. You drove the Volt so you know how much GM invested (literally and figuratively) in making the Volt “normal”. Going racing might be at cross purposes to that strategy.
    Still, Porsche with the 918 RSR seems willing to at least dip its toe into alternatively powered race cars.
    One thing that I do know is that there’s not a racing enthusiast whose eyes don’t light up at the mention of maximum torque at stall.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      A few years back Hot Rod magazine had an article on electric drag racers.  Nearly all were using electric fork lift motors.

  • avatar

    I hope one of these tiny companies comes up with the right combination and patents it.  The auto industry could use a swift kick in the arse from an upstart.

  • avatar

    The right front tire of the Westfield is mounted wrong?

  • avatar

    A racing series would certainly lay bare the range limitations, exposing the manufacturers to deep embarrassment. watching the Leaf go into the pits for a battery switch 10 times in some 500 mile race, and saying, no, I’m not going to get one of tose.
    It would be necessary to be able to switch batteries very quickly, and that may not be possible for, say, the Leaf or the Tesla. More embarrassment. Then there’d have to be enough batteries on hand to get through a whole race, or some real whompo charging equipment that may not exist.
    No, racing’s not going to show EVs at their best.

  • avatar

    “…first-ever all-electric racing series”
    Depends on how you define series. I watched the 2004 Electric Drag Races at Woodburn just outside Portland Oregon.  The “Power of DC” NEDRA event has been going on for several years.  Formula Lightning was (is?) a series in which college engineering schools competed electric open-wheel cars for several years. It’s unclear whether this competition continues or not, but they actually called it a “series.”
    If you’ve never been to electric drag races, make a trip to Woodburn in Oregon or Mason-Dixon Dragway in Maryland to see a NEDRA event. There’s a full list of events at  Drag racing is very different without the roaring of exhaust–there’s nothing quite like hearing tires squeal  and hearing nothing else.

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