GREEN SPECIAL: The race for a fast EV
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Motorsport and being environmentally kind aren’t automatic associates, but over recent years we’ve seen the number of electric vehicles and EV motorsport cars and categories not just grow, but also prove their ultimate performance.
The world has really only taken notice of EVs in motorsport over the past 5-6 years… and there’s a distinct reason.
While cars like the Audi e-tron and Tesla are sold through local showrooms for road driving, on a global motorsport scale, EV took a motorsport headline two years ago, in America’s second-oldest motorsport race, Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
Nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb set an incredible course record in 2013, in a purpose-built Peugeot racecar, with a time many thought would never be broken. But just five years later in 2018, that time was smashed by an electric VW, a record that still stands.
Locally, New Zealand’s own Hayden Paddon recently unveiled his Hyundai EV rally car, and intends to break new ground and performance.
On a production scale, Jaguar’s I-Pace eTrophy one-make championship showcased the electric SUV, with Kiwi Simon Evans recently claiming the 2019-2020 championship by just one point.
The I-Pace series ran as a support category for what has become the global showcase of EV motorsport over the past 5-6 years, the FIA Formula E championship. As the world’s premier electric vehicle racing category - and ‘green’ rival to Formula 1 - some of the world’s best drivers, teams and brands compete, with the most successful team being Audi Sport ABT Scahaeffler.
Audi’s new racecar is the e-tron FE06, offering 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, a top speed of 240km/h, and weighing just 900kg, including driver. With a 52kWh Lithium-ion battery, it weighs around 385kg and takes 45 min to charge. Power output varies between: as high as 250kW for qualifying and Fanboost, to 235kW for Attack Mode and 200kW for races.
Steering wheel paddles don’t shift – given there’s a one-speed gearbox – but adjust the rate of battery recharge and regeneration under braking.
Attack Mode lets every driver pick up an extra hit of power at their own risk. To activate, drivers pass through an off-line Activation Zone, thereby collecting an extra 35kW of power, which can be used in the subsequent laps, giving them a temporary power and speed advantage.
Another unique feature of Formula E is ‘Fan Boost’, where fans vote online for their favourite driver, and the top five are awarded a burst of power, which they can deploy in a five-second window during the second half of the race.
From the 69 Formula E races held so far, Audi ABT Schaeffler team has earned 12 wins and 43 podiums, mostly from driver Lucas di Grassi.
Proof that in motorsport, being green is no longer a barrier to speed or excitement.