All you have to do is get in the car once and you’ll be convinced - Eric Schacht
Some of you might scoff at the idea of an all-electric race car…but the idea has a lot more promise than you might expect. The U.S. Auto Club and Columbus Electric Motorsports recently worked together to build an all-electric midget racer, which we saw in action a few months ago at Bubba Raceway Park. From what we’ve been able to gather, this little electric racer is a serious performer.
0-60mph: <3 sec
Weight: 1,069 lbs (for prototype before any optimization or weight reduction)
Powertrain Life: >25 years
Battery Life: ~500 races and >2 years
Available Horsepower: 80-250 hp
This new USAC electric midget has surprising longevity for a battery-electric racer, the folks from USAC explained to us that as the midget sits it can go over 50 laps on the 1/3-mile in Florida without being recharged. Performance wise, it’s no slouch either.
“All you have to do is get in the car and you’ll be convinced,” said head engineer of CE Motorsports, Eric Schacht. “It will only take about the half of a second to be thrown back in the seat, and you’ll say is - ‘yep that is the coolest thing I’ve ever driven.’”
What Eric is hinting to is how these electric motors provide 100% of their available torque at 0 RPM. That is instant torque, instant thrust for shooting your car forward. Battery technology is ever evolving, and soon electric cars will have a range comparable to conventional cars. And while the day when EV racers can get the same mileage as their gas-powered competitors is still years away, it seems there is a day of reckoning coming for conventional racers.
A few drivers have had the opportunity to drive this quiet beast, but the ones that have were quite surprised by the performance.
Driver Casey Shuman took the electric midget racer for a run, and while he thought it would be a joke, the performance was surprising even though it was tuned down in power.
“It was actually pretty cool, it was a lot better then I ever expected,” said a surprised Shuman. “I didn’t expect much out of it, I figured it would be a little bit of a joke and it wasn’t at all. It got to where you had to pedal it a little bit, the throttle response is pretty similar to a normal midget. It’s pretty cool how similar it is.”
The horsepower output is similar to a newer Ford Focus. Another consideration is cost; running a midget racer is not cheap, between the engines, transmissions, replacement parts, oil, and fuel. But while electric vehicles have a high cost of entry, their maintenance costs are impressively low.
CE expects the initial purchase of the electric engine to run teams between $12,000 to $15,000 for the powerplant. Electric motors have few moving parts and can last for decades with no major repairs. While the batteries are expected to last for two to three years of vigorous racing, Columbus Electric explained that the powertrain life could be expected to last 25-30 years!
Wave Of The Future?
Are battery electric racers the future of racing? Not yet. We think the snort and smell of conventional V8′s will always have a place in the fans of hearts. However, electric vehicles offer a new avenue for performance and competition, and already people are finding that electric vehicles don’t have to be boring. We expect to see more electric racers as the technology continues to evolve, and we don’t think it will be long before an electric racing league gets launched.
For now, the USAC electric midget remains a competition prototype. It was actually built in Columbus, Ohio, by Columbus Electric Motorsports, and electric racers could actually change a lot about the way we perceive motorsports. For one, the overall quietness of the electric racers means that it might be possible to “sneak up” on an unsuspecting competitor. That’s hard to do with an unmuffled exhaust.
It also allows drivers and audience alike to hear the cars kicking up the tire and squealing their tires. That might take a little more getting used to. But then again, even Shuman believes that if the race fielded an even number of gas and electric midget racers, the EV’s would put on a good show.
Make no doubt about it, this electric midget racer is great for the sport. Electric racing will open doors to new avenues of power, while promoting an activity that is both fun to watch and environmentally responsible. Hopefully the electric midget will help spur an evolution of innovation, and give teams the inspiration to try and tackle a new level of sustainable performance.