One of the most spectacular forms of motorsport has gone all electric, as the FIA World Rallycross Championship switches to a zero-emission future for the first time. The change is just the latest in a series of moves that look to show that electric cars can not only be economical and green, but fun too.
RallyX is a mixture of World Rally Championship cars and track racing, with sections of tarmac and dirt mixed together and cars racing side by side. The vehicles on track might look like your run-of-the-mill supermini – alright, a seriously pumped-up supermini – but under the surface, they now feature twin electric motors producing 500 kW (680bhp), and can get from 0-62mph faster than a Formula 1 car.
The instant response from an electric motor, which puts out a lot of power for its size, is understandably useful for racing, with the main issue being fitting in a heavy battery large enough to power the cars for extended periods at full throttle.
Developments in battery technology means this is improving all the time however, with weight and size of battery packs coming down. As such, we now have RallyX as a fully-electric world championship series, as well as the single-seater Formula E championship.
Other forms of top-level racing are increasingly electrified too, as Formula 1 uses hybrid technology to recuperate braking power and use it to power an electric motor. Even brutal long-distance endurance events are having increasing amounts of electric power engineered into the cars.
Extreme E is an off-road rally series that aims to highlight climate change, and races all-electric prototype vehicles. The Dakar Rally series is seeing hybrid cars cover huge distances across parts of the world where the notion of a road simply isn’t possible. And the World Endurance Championship, which includes the flagship 24 Hour of Le Mans race is launching a new prototype class this year of hybrid hypercars – though it has had hybrid power in its top-tier for many years now.
But what does this all mean for drivers on the road? Motor racing has always been an essential way to develop new ideas for cars. Engines have become more powerful and more efficient because of the demands placed on them by racing engineers. The likes of disc brakes, which significantly reduce stopping times over the older drum brakes, were developed and raced before being offered on road cars.
Transmission systems, anti-lock brakes, power steering, and adjustable suspension have all been tried out and honed on racing cars over the years, so it should come as no surprise that electric powertrains are too.
By combining lessons learnt from a little over a decade of mass-market EVs on the road with motorcading developments, it means that road cars will go further on a charge, produce more power, and weigh less, improving efficiency.
But we should not forget that motorsport is not just a handy tool for engineering developments, it is entertainment. And electric power can prove extremely entertaining indeed.
Categories : Electric Car News