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The advantages of electric race cars

The racing community is discovering that electric vehicles do indeed provide some advantages that are hard for internal combustion engine vehicles to duplicate.

One of the most recent examples come from the annual Pike's Peak hillclimb race which runs on a 12.42-mile course that climbs 14,110 ft through 156 turns at an average incline of about 7%. EVs are now a staple of the race. (The first EV entered the 1981 race and finished the course in 32 min 7 sec.) But racers say EVs have an advantage over gas-powered cars at the higher altitudes. Gas-powered race cars can lose 30% of their power in the highest elevations of the course, but that's not a problem for the EVs.

Nor are EVs subject to overheating that can result from lean fuel-air mixtures at higher altitudes. And EV drivers tend to get less tired at high altitudes because they don't have to bother with up and down-shifting through the course: their cars run in a single gear.

Nevertheless, both kinds of vehicles have trouble with cooling at high altitude -- gas-powered cars with their engine cooling, EVs with battery cooling -- because water boils near the summit at just 181.4°.

This year's race was won by a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe which ran the course in 9:46.164. Fastest finisher in the EV category was a Toyota driven by Fumio Nutahara with a time of 10:15.652, sixth-best overall and which beat the old EV speed record on the course by more than two minutes.

The EV sported an electric motor providing 350 Nm of power and 900 Nm of torque, powered by a lithium-ceramic battery holding 42 kW-hr. European race enthusiasts are also beginning to appreciate what EVs can bring to the track.

One recent development across the pond is the development of an EV that runs faster than a V-12 Ferrari, going from 0 to 100 mph in 8.5 sec and hitting a top speed of 170 mph. Called the Nemesis, the car was developed by a UK green electricity company called ecotricity and recently broke the UK electric car land-speed record when it topped 151 mph.

The Nemesis is powered by two 125 kW motors putting out 330 bhp getting juice from lithium polymer cobalt pouch cells providing 36 kW-hr of capacity. The battery sits in a novel double-skin carbon-fiber/aluminium honeycomb structure engineered for safety. Developers say the car can go 100 to 150 miles depending on driving style.

More info, ecotricity: http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/about-ecotricity/eco-labs/nemesis/land-speed-record

TAGS: Automotive
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