Will Pikes Peak be dominated by electric vehicle racers in the near future? If the last Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) is anything to judge by then yes.
It would be an understatement to say electric vehicles (EV) impressed many at the 2013 Pikes Peak. What might not have transpired was the increasing public interest with these new electric race cars and motorcycles. Another aspect that caught me by surprise was the interest from traditional combustion engine race competing teams. Why was the electric motor spinning so high this year? Simply because it delivers 100% of its torque as soon as it spins and suffers no altitude problems.
Lightning Waves Goodbye to Gasoline Motorcycles. A pole position, 9th overall and much intrigue from an unsuspected crowd of race enthusiasts. If we take time to think about this weekend race, Lightning Motorcycles win is no less than fantastic. In four years, Richard Hatfield and his team did what would take decades for the internal combustion engine. Richard shared with me he felt vindicated and we both agreed that the electric drive progresses in one year as much as ICE technology did in over the past decades. Here is our phone interview.
Zero Motorcycles Races to the Top. Zero Motorcycles are the electric motorcycles you can afford and that will completely convince you electricity for bikes is the way to go. Small, light, Zero Motorcycles have been competing at the Isle of Man, Pikes Peak and more. Every race brings more improvement and Jeremiah Johnson’s enthusiasm is a good reflection. He told me he was leaving gasoline bikes behind running only 50% power. Stay tuned for my interview with Jeremiah Johnson.
David and Goliath. In the electric car prototype race, Mitsubishi, Toyota or Monster Tajima held all eyes. We might debate who is David and Goliath, but the privateer Tajima “Monster” won in an impressive win in a show of raw horse power up the mountain. The difference between Monster Tajima and Mitsubishi, and Toyota was a philosophical one. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima prefers power and what we would consider to be a better choice, balancing power, weight and electronics for Mitsubishi and Toyota proved not to be the winning formula this time. OK, the weather really didn’t agree really.
Here is a quick video I shot from my iPhone at the Mitsubishi shop. Talk about old world meets the future.
Weather and “Qualifying”. Pikes Peak followers will probably argue that “Qualifying” times there is an oddity. Why would those running better qualifying times leave behind others? If qualifying makes sense on a start grid with many vehicles, at Pikes Peak it means little. This year’s new strategy will probably have to be reworked next year. It would be better to call it practice runs, determine who scored the best times and let them start first.
The Public Was Intrigued. In the pits, you could hear things like: “That’s the car I was telling you about, it’s electric” pointing to the Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution II, Toyota’s TMG P002 or the Tajima Monster. What really made me feel this was the year of the electric drive were competing gasoline team race managers and engineers coming to the electric paddock and wrestling with this new electric phenomenon. And for those who will argue about the lack of noise, just listen to a whizzing race car splitting the air.It sounds like a jet fighter.
Is The Electric Motor Ready For Racing? If one thing the Pikes Peak 2013 edition proved, it’s that the electric drivetrain is seriously challenging gasoline engine in its struggle to keep horsepower at high altitude. As we move up from 4,720 ft (1,440 m) to 14,110 ft (4,300 m), gasoline engines struggle to take in more air. Sebastian Loeb’s spectacular Peugeot 206 T16 relies on a turbo and a super compressor just to feed the hungry engine enough air. Most cars lose up to 40% of their power at the summit. An electric motor doesn’t suffer that challenge. By delivering 100% of its torque as soon as it spins, that much needed power is applied earlier out of corners, potentially shaving off precious fraction of seconds.
Stay tuned for my interviews with the Mitsubishi team, Greg Tracy, Hiroshi Masuoka, Jeremiah Johnson with Zero Motorcycles and Toyota. The next few years should prove electric car and motorcycle racing will more than challenge their gasoline counterparts, especially at hill climbs. This year’s 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb proved once and for all that the electric motor will continue to power more race vehicles up the hill, thanks to Lightning Motorcycles, Mitsubishi, Tajima and Toyota.