By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
Recent news releases remind us that hybrid and all-electric vehicle technology is not reserved for the sole use of commuters and tree-huggers. Since electric motors are usually involved, torque can be delivered almost instantly to the drive wheels. Races are often won or lost in those instants, and the companies that race are interested.
In January, Toyota introduced the TS030 Hybrid with its THS-R hybrid propulsion system. Designed to compete under new rules in the World Endurance Championship series—think 24 Hours of LeMans and other races—Toyota combines a 3.4l V-8 gas engine with an electric supplemental system. The car uses energy recovery under braking, stores the energy in a beefy capacitor and returns it to the wheels during acceleration. The current rules allow the electro-drive to only the front or rear wheels, not both, and the company was still mulling which solution to use when the car was introduced.
Not to be outdone, Audi, whose turbo-diesel racers dominated the class for a while, has just pulled the covers from its R18 e-tron Quattro. Besides the V-5 TDI racing engine, this one also recovers brake energy but stores it in a flywheel system and returns it to the front wheels. Audi feels this gives them a distinct advantage with momentary all-wheel drive. (As an aside, Audi dominance was recently nullified by the Peugeot turbo diesel, but Peugeot has withdrawn from world racing due to financial difficulties. They were rumored to have been working on a hybrid as well.)
Further to the point but in a different venue, Mitsubishi announced last week that a high performance, rebodied version of the i-MiEV will run this year’s Pikes Peak hill climb. The company claims the power train is made from the same production components as the street car.
The folks who don’t turn corners have some news as well. The National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) was set up for folks who take their voltages to the limit. The club runs a full roster of drag classes for electric vehicles, and the class designation even identifies the voltage in use. While there are some pro-level cars, many competitors are one-off homebuilts piloted by their creators.
At a recent NEDRA Nationals event, an electrified Fiero turned the quarter mile in 10.677 seconds, a new record for the Modified Conversion/A2 (300-348 volt) class. Additionally, a team of high school students took their “Black Pearl” e-powered Porsche 944 to a class record at 11.319 in the 240-300 volt class.
Porsches in drag racing and hybrid diesel endurance cars – and all done with electricity. A few seasons ago, who’d’a thunk it?
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