One of the proving grounds for automotive technology is in racing and a number of alternative power train vehicles are headed to prestigious events this year. Electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles are competing in prestigious races like the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
From the Nurburgring to the neighborhood
Many technologies in passenger cars are honed on a race track, as the efficacy and endurance of the technology is tested under strain, demonstrating feasible use for road cars. For instance, paddle-shifted automatic transmissions were developed, according to Drive.com.au, by Ferrari in the late 1980s for use in its Formula One race cars.
It is also creates publicity and helps generate sales. For either purpose, a slew of alternative power train vehicles, including hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles are headed to prestigious race series this year.
Granted, environmentalists may not have racing in mind for alternative propulsion cars, but it does show cars that aren’t powered solely by gasoline can be fast as all get-out.
Hill climbs are one of the oldest forms of motor sport. Drivers flog cars up a steep up-hill road coarse, many of which are partly off-pavement, to achieve the best clocked time. Steep gradients, thin air and twisting roads push engine, suspension and driver to the limits.
This year, according to USA Today, a number of electric vehicles are headed to the annual hill climb held at Pike’s Peak in Colorado. The race starts at 9,390 feet, climbing to 14,110 feet over a 12.4-mile course, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Mitsubishi is taking a race-modified MiEV along with a normal model for competition. Toyota is running the 469-horsepower TMG EV P002, the company’s prototype electric racer. An earlier version, the P001, set the Nurburgring record for electric vehicles, according to AutoBlog.
AC Propulsion, an electric drive-train maker for BMW and other companies, is also fielding an entry in this year’s electric class, according to the Wall Street Journal. Electric car company EV West is running a BMW M3 converted to electric power, according to AutoBlog. Electric cars have competed at the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb for several years running; in 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal, one entrant was an unmodified Nissan Leaf.
Make like McQueen and head for Le Mans
Several car companies are taking hybrids to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi is bringing four R18 cars to the event, two of which will be R18 e-tron Quattro turbo-diesel hybrids, which use a regenerative brake system to power electric motors in the front wheels, according to AutoGuide. A diesel engine powers the rear wheels, giving the car all-wheel-drive. Toyota, according to AutoBlog, is taking a pair of its TS030 hybrid prototype racers as well.
According to AutoGuide, a Swiss company called Green GT is also taking its 542-horsepower H2, a hydrogen fuel cell powered racer to Le Mans as well, which powers the rear wheels by a pair of electric motors. It’s currently the most powerful FCV on the planet.