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Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by Michael J Smith

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Likelihood Of Electric Cars In NASCAR Increasing

AC Propulsion, an electric drive-train designer and manufacturer, announced that one of its drive-trains will again power the current electric-vehicle holder in this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Last year, an electric racer, which was powered by an ACP system, won the competition’s Exhibition Class and set a new electric vehicle record.

This year, ACP has improved the cooling system of its drive system, which the company predicts will help the car climb the hill in the 12-minute range. Last year’s time was 13 minutes and 17.575 seconds.

The vehicle is a rear-wheel drive, open-wheel car with lithium-ion batteries from Sanyo Electric Co. It will use Yokohama BluEarth tires, which are designed to conserve fuel. It will be driven by Ikuo Hanawa, who also drove the car that won the Exhibition Class last year.

This news, coupled with the news of an London-based, electric-vehicle racing series called EV Cup that is launching this year, makes the possibility of an electric Sprint Cup car more realistic than it once was.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about this very idea. I still maintain that a move to electric cars is not that ridiculous. With that said, we’re decades away from that I think. But with the development and refinement of hybrid and electric race car technology, the likelihood continues to increase, even if ever so slightly.

The EV Cup will run two races this season, one at Mazda Laguna Seca in November and one at Auto Club Speedway in December.  A full season is set to run in 2012, though tracks have not yet been publicized.

Still, a move to electric cars would not be well received by the current crop of NASCAR fans. For example, few things match the sound of a pushrod, V8 circling the track. Sure it’s loud, but that’s the point. Electric vehicles cannot match that sound.

Last year, Mike Monticello of Road & Track called the ACP car his “least favorite” car at Pikes Peak. He wrote:

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be embracing all this ‘green’ technology, but the car I liked the least at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was the electric EV Sports Concept HER-02 buggy piloted by Ikuo Hanawa. Nothing against Hanawa, but if you need to have chimes ringing on your car, as Hanawa did, so that onlookers know to skedaddle off the road as you drive up the hill, then there’s something wrong with your race car. … A proper racing car should be loud, like the Super Stock class cars of Layne Schranz (a full-on Chevy Monte Carlo NASCAR stocker) and Steve Goeglein (Chevy Camaro), the bellowing V8s of which raised the hairs on the back of your neck whenever they thundered by.

That will make a switch to electric cars in NASCAR virtually impossible any time soon because, simply put, the fans won’t like it and they are what drives the sport, monetarily.

For comparison purposes, the motor in this year’s car, the AC-180, will be similar to ACP’s AC-150 motor, which is used in BMW’s Mini E. The AC-180 produces 268 HP at 6,000 – 7,000 RPM and 258 ft/lb of torque from zero to 5,000 RPM. A Sprint Cup pushrod V8 produces 850 HP at 9,000 RPM and 550 ft/lb of torque at 7,500 RPM.

Electric technology has a long way to go to produce that kind of power, which means it’s a long way off.

What do you think? Would you be opposed to electric cars in NASCAR?

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About the Author

Michael J. Smith is a NASCAR enthusiast and blogger. In addition to founding this website, Michael is a journalist with over a decade of experience writing for prestigious media organizations.



7 Responses to Likelihood Of Electric Cars In NASCAR Increasing

  1. Conor says:

    Simply put, I would NEVER watch another race again.

  2. Auto racing was once the proving ground and rolling laboratory for the engineers and designers of car companies.
    Initially, 100 years ago, the challenges were speed and reliability, 500 miles was an astonishingly long race. Both speed and endurance have now been solved.
    Today, a 100 years later, the challenge is fuel consumption. For every $2 increase in the price of oil we spend enough extra money to put engineers to teach math and science in one grade level in all the schools in the country. Since the late 1990’s we’ve spent enough extra money to put engineers in all the schools in the US to teach all the math and science courses.
    The cost of energy and its availability will define the future of the US, and since the year 2000 that future is rather bleak.

  3. Mike says:

    It would be a long race at 500 miles if they charged at 110 volts. How about nationwide series eliminating fueling for the entire distance, pick some fuel tank size and say figure out the rest on your own. Would be kind of cool

  4. Michael J Smith says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mike.

    My guess is that if NASCAR ever did switch, they would have pit stops for tires, but they would also swap out batteries. The time to swap a battery would need to be about the same time it takes to put on two tires. That said, it wouldn’t be very exciting, I don’t think.

  5. Matt says:

    I think eliminating refueling at even the shorter distances that Nationwide races would be too problematic to be possible. The only data I could find for fuel mileage was for Cup cars at ~5mpg. With the longer distances in Nationwide reaching 300 miles, that means a minimum fuel load of 60 gallons. That’s over three times the current capacity of 18 gallons. Not only does this increase the amount of highly-flammable material that could ignite, 60 gallons of gasoline weighs around 370lbs. The handling dynamics of the car would be drastically altered as over 10% of its weight is burned off in the course of a race.

  6. James says:

    Craze of electric cars are growing day by day and it is good for the nature and it also reduces air pollution. I am in favour of Electric vehicles.

  7. Tony Cars says:

    It’s hard to believe that electric cars have come so far as to consider them for NASCAR. But maybe soon we will have to believe it. If that happens, it will spell the end of liquid fuel vehicles.

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