Motorsport has had a long and checkered (flag) history, those glorious men and women with their magnificent machines have risked their lives, some losing them but generally entertaining crowds packed around racetracks, stadiums, closed courses and open roads the world over.
The first recorded organized motorsport even was the Chicago Times-Herald race held on Thanksgiving day of November 28th 1895, the associated press coverage around the world from this aroused a general interest in automobile motorsport.
There are many types of motorsport today including manufacturer and privateer touring cars on slick tarmac circuits, 24-hour races at Le Mans, tarmac and gravel rallycross stages including ice on spiked tires in some countries, sprint car on muddy circuits, NASCAR on closed-loop circuits, races across continents like the Paris-Dakar, Drag and funny car (top fuel) racing, Monster Trucks… let’s not forget Formula 1 and its smaller sibling variations of the sport like F3000 right down to go-cart racing – there are many more types of motorsport and variations which are too long to list here. Motorsport to say is a popular and a crowd-pleasing high octane pastime whether on two, four, six or more wheels or tracks, across water or in the air.
Many of the features we see in our normal road cars come from racing lines, ok they are not the exact same components but some designs and handling characteristics stem from a racing heritage, manufacturers who take part in racing events see efficiency improvements and other benefits in their cars then implement the upgrades into their own production line vehicles.
We are starting to see a shift from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to battery storage (some with solar panels for ongoing charging) forms of transport, wholly referred to as Electric Vehicles (EV) on our roads.
Now caught up with this trend, there are now a growing number of electrically powered motorsports from manufactures and privateer racers:
- Andros Trophy is a French racing series that began experimenting with electric cars in 2007 and an electric car class added in 2010 then from the 2019 – 2020 only fully electric cars are featured.
- Electric GT is a planned series with all-electric racing cars, the first season will all be Tesla Model S car but other marques will be allowed to compete as the sport progresses.
- A completely new Electric Touring Car inaugural championship series was announced at the Geneva motor show, SEAT with their performance brand CUPRA are lined up to be the first entrants to the series. Touring cars traditionally use the same homologated shells of their road-going cousins and the major car manufacturers compete with each other in the championships.
- Formula-E cars are single-seater open-cockpit race cars similar in appearance to Formula 1 (Grand Prix) cars and are sanctioned by the FIA, it is the highest class of one make electrically powered racing cars. Conceived in 2012 and the first championship was in September 2014 with it still ongoing.
- Isle of Man TT Zero is an all-electric one lap race of the course which covers 37.733 miles at the Snaefemm mountain course on the Isle of Man, it has a prestigious speed of 100 mph (160.93 kph) (with ICE competing motorcycles) and a final lap time of 22 minutes 38.388 seconds. The 2010 first race was won by American Mark Miller who rode a MotoCzysz E1pc motorcycle in 23 minutes 22.89 seconds with an average speed of 96.280 mph (154.94 kph), the American made electric motorcycle was the first American manufactured machine to win since 1911 when Oliver Godfrey won on his ICE Indian V-Twin motorcycle. Since 2014 Team Mugen from Japan has been the dominant winning force and raised the average lap speed to 121.9 mph (196.17 kph).
- Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy is a series of stock all-electric cars that are run by the Jaguar car company, 2018-2019 was the inaugural season with the championship supporting the Formula-E series and the cars racing on the same track on the same day as the Formula-E races.
- Le Mans has planned to introduce a fully electric racing class in 2024 that will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, as the races are for 24-hours this will really test the limits of the technology. In the recent regular championship with ICE cars, Le Mans have all been won by the hybrid-electric Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
- MotoE world cup is a support series of the MotoGP and events that have been taking place since 2019, due to a lower center of gravity and instant power available, these electric superbikes really demonstrate the simplistic yet advanced untapped racing technology of EVs.
- World Rallycross Championship (WRX) has mixed ICE and EV race cars competing in timed events across stages all over the world, as time goes on perhaps more manufacturers who compete using ICE cars will take up interest on the electric side of things.
- World Solar Challenge is a comparatively slow-paced sport but still an important one with the first event taking place in 1987, the course covers 1,877 miles (3,021 km) and runs through the Australian outback with mainly universities and some corporations competing with solar paneled and battery storage vehicles, there are different classes with some cars seating up to four people. To complete the course takes different input objectives including strategy, driving styles, speeds and is independent on the solar energy being produced on the Photovoltaic cells for continual forward motion.
Electric motorsports have been around for a good while with the designs and capabilities of the machines being tested to the max, the motors to turn the wheels have become more efficient as well as the batteries but these can have a limiting factor due to charging times when they run low or in different weather conditions (Lithium cells need to be controlled and must not overheat as can suffer an intense thermal runaway). Some electric motorsport vehicles have range limiting factors but now, the whole battery packs that can be removed very quickly and replaced with a fully charged one whilst having a pit stop..
Typically the electric motorsport races and events are shorter than the ICE ones but more intense as the torque which is developed from an electrically power motor just cannot be matched by ICE cars for the most part at sub 155mph (249.44 kph) speeds – with a Tesla used as an example.
The instantly available power is just phenomenal and is only limited by the battery currents stable power delivery as well as capacity of the cells for range of movement – a motor can start up, go to a certain speed and then stop in the exact same time which assists with handling and overall control as the system is predictable and controlled, these are coupled with multiple computers that not only look out for the driver but run the system as well whether on the racetrack in a E-supercar or on the road in a very efficient road going version.
E-Racing will only get more popular and new forms created over time and as electric battery storage technology improves, if you have not seen these events you should probably take a look.
Thanks for reading, leave your comments below with your favourite E-sport!