There’s been a great deal of attention placed on electric cars in the past couple of weeks, specifically when it comes to racing. Not only did a hybrid vehicle win the Le Mans 24-hour race, but a new record was set for land speed by an electric vehicle.
To top it off, Nissan unveiled their new electric race car, the ZEOD. All of the press garnered by these achievements shows that there’s a high interest in the future of electric race car technology, both by industry professionals and the public.
The technology used to achieve these record breaking speeds can hopefully trickle down to make our everyday electric cars more speedy and efficient. This is much needed, as at the moment many fuel efficient gas engines are surpassing hybrids in efficiency. A Mazda CX-5, for example, beats out many hybrid competitors, as does Ford’s fleet of EcoBoost engines. The recent strides in electric racing technology point to a future of electric road cars that are both efficient and fun to drive.
One of the most exciting bits of news this week was the breaking of the previous record for land speed set by an electric vehicle in 1974. This was beaten by
Lord Drayson’s Lola endurance prototype in the UK, which managed to reach speeds of 204.2 mph. Designed as a potential competitor for a future Le Mans race; the Lola B12 69/EV used new technologies such as structural batteries. These batteries are built directly into the car’s bodywork for better efficiency, to complement the 850hp electric motor.
The car was also tweaked to make it more aerodynamic, with the stunt meant to highlight the potential of electric vehicles in the future. The vehicle’s chassis is composed out of recycled carbon fibres, which have been adapted to minimise friction and increase speeds. Google chairman Eric Schmidt spent some time on the track watching the vehicle’s practice runs, showing interest in the technology used in this achievement.
Another electric racing milestone was reached with Nissan revealing the ZEOD RC, which is on track to be the world’s first official electric race car. Nissan also plans to enter this new vehicle in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hour race. The car shares its lithium battery technology with the brand’s popular Leaf model, although the ZEOD will be able to reach speeds exceeding 300 kph. With a futuristic body and close-set front wheels, the ZEOD is designed for endurance racing and may use multiple sources of power to set new records. Nissan is currently testing out options to see what will work the best for endurance racing, whether it’s switching between electric and petrol power or pure electric power.
All of these advances in electric racing technology will be put to the test at Le Mans along with the FIA’s new Formula E Championship. The first race will be hosted in London, but other locations include Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Rome. Drayson Racing plans to race a new machine, as does McLaren and other potential competitors.
Racing electric cars helps draw greater public attention to the possibilities of zero-emission vehicles, and puts them in higher demand. This helps improve technology used in electric models like the Ssangyong car prototype recently unveiled at Paris motor show and other new hybrids. The technologies used to create electric racing machines could potentially be used to make consumer cars more efficient in the future.