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Likelihood Of Electric Cars In NASCAR Increasing

[1]AC Propulsion, an electric drive-train designer and manufacturer, announced [2] 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 [3] that is launching this year [4], makes the possibility of an electric Sprint Cup car more realistic than it once was.

Two years ago, I wrote an article [5] 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 [6] 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?