EV enthusiasts gather for 2012 REFUEL race

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The fourth annual REFUEL electric vehicle racing event was held July 1 at famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif. It was perhaps the largest such event ever held.

REFUEL promotes EVs

The event is organized by the racing instruction school, Speed Ventures, in recognition of the growing importance of vehicles powered by batteries on the road and on the track. The event attracted double the attendees it did in 2011.

Some of the drivers Sunday were professional racers, but most were EV owners who wanted to get their hands dirty.

Brammo Enertia

The Brammo Enertia all-electric motorcycle. Brammo's latest prototype, the Empulse R, raced in the REFUEL event Sunday. Image: ntzkobold/Flickr/CC BY-SA

There was a slew of production vehicles in attendance, everything from the Nissan Leaf to the Chevy Volt to the BMW ActiveE. The Tesla S and Tesla Roadster was represented multiple times.

But there were also some new goodies to eyeball, such as Brammo’s Empulse R prototype electric motorcycle and two electric race cars, and one from Kleenspeed and one from Yamaha.

Pre-trial races

The main event at REFUEL is the time trial race, where vehicles do not share the track but compete with clock readings instead.

However, leading up to the main event, the vehicles are pitted against one another in more action-friendly traditional races. This gave the drivers a chance to warm up and get to know the track, as well as giving fans something to see. There was a full grid of 30 cars competing in the pre-trial races.

Two all-electric race cars

Kleenspeed, a Silicon Valley start up, unveiled its new racing model, the EV-X11. The speedy EV is based on a West WX10 race car chassis with Kleenspeed’s own battery and drive train. It can deliver 200 HP and 300 ft. lb. of torque. It set a new lap time record on the Laguna Seca track for electric racing cars, clocking in at 1:32.046 in the main event.

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The second new racer present was the HER-02, which was built by Ikuo Hanawa for Yokohama Tires. It was slated to compete at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Challenge, before that event was postponed due to the Colorado fires. Its drive train comes from AC Propulsion, and it is capable of 268 HP and 258 ft. lb. of torque. It clocked in for the main event at 1:48.936.

Production EV class

There were 25 cars competing in the production EV class. Tesla showed its mettle by taking the top eight places. The four best times were all Tesla S models. The top the Model S clocked in at 1:51.832 lap time, not as fast as last year’s 1:50.883.

The next leading four were all Tesla Roadsters. After that, Nissan’s Leaf stepped up to the plate, followed by the Coda.

Electric motorcycles

Thirteen electric two-wheelers also competed in the event. Most of those were Zero S bikes, the top one clocking in at 2:00.389. The custom-built “Bicycle of Doom,” complete with working pedals, got 2:13.453 for its lap time.

The hero in the class, however, was Brammo’s Empulse R prototype. It burned up the lap at 1:40.269.


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