There was an article just recently published about electric vehicles (EVs) in motorsports and how they are making aggressive inroads to the bigger overall sporting picture. We have learnt that EVs give out no noxious tailpipe fumes from their exhausts as there are none, as well as the fact that the electric motors are super torquey makes for some pretty impressive racing action, for now there are some restrictions on the battery storage as well as overheating issues but as this is fairly new tech, leaps and bounds are made with every generation of EV that is developed and released, from a backed-up racing car heritage or otherwise.
Some motorsport and racing purists do not like the idea of EVs as a basis for racing cars but there is just no stopping them now and some of these vehicles have completed laps of circuits, even winning races when taking on normally aspirated Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.
The next stage that we are all about to start seeing are fully autonomous EVs on racetracks across the world.
The NIO EP9 which is the worlds fastest electric car set a record for the fastest self-driving car at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas on February 23rd 2017 with a lap time of 2 minutes and 40.33 seconds, the top speed was 160 mph. It also went on to beat production car records (with a driver) getting a fast lap time of 2 minutes and 11.30 seconds achieving 170 mph.
The same car made a lap of the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany that covers 20.8 km (12.92 miles) in just 7 minutes and 5.12 seconds on October 12th 2016 making it the fastest electric car in the world – any lap of the ring under 10 minutes with an ICE is a feat for most racing drivers.
The NEO EP9 was built in just four months and achieves heightened performance as it has four individual high-performance electric motors that have four individual gearboxes, the power output is equivalent to 1350 PS (1342 Brake Horse Power). The car accelerates from 0 – 124 mph (199.58 kph) in just 7.1 seconds, it then goes on to achieve a top speed of 194 mph (312.21 kph), battery charging is not such a deliberating factor as the cells can be charged in 45 minutes having a range of 265 miles, for races the battery packs are quickly and easily interchangeable during pitstops.
The NEO EP9 is not the only autonomous race car as competing teams can take part in a new racing series called Roborace. Teams will utilize the same base chassis as well as running gear and batteries but the individual teams will have to develop their own real-time decision-making algorithms as well as Artificial Intelligence technologies learning courses and pushing the machines to the absolute limits with the internal processing power coming from Nvidia and their Drive PX2 system, Michelin is the official tyre sponsor.
The cars weigh around 1350 kg (2972.24 lbs) with the chassis being shaped like a teardrop that greatly aids aerodynamic efficiency with no driver cab needed so a very low roof or sorts is evident, it has an overall length of 4.8 metres (16ft) and the width of the machine is 2 metres (6.6 ft). Power comes from four electric motors each having 135 kw usable energy output and when combined they develop the equivalent of over 500 bhp, the battery capacity is 840 volts and speeds have been demonstrated of almost 190 mph (300 kph).
Autonomous motorsports are here to stay and no vehicle with a soft celled human driver can come close to the output power and real-time decision making with computer processing, the vehicles can be driven hard, not only that but the technology will be passed onto normal roadgoing autonomous cars like the Google car and that of the Tesla range.
If you have not come across this sport you really should, the cars are still in active development and will share the same tracks as those of Formula-E so be on the lookout for this new and exciting sport and racing series – in time there will be more like this.