The bleeding edge of automotive... part 1

Electric cuts to the chase

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I recently watched this great little documentary about the Pikes Peak hill climb. The Pikes Peak highway is 12 miles long with 156 bends which summits the Rocky Mountain at 4,300m. The annual race attracts a huge following and pits all manner of vehicles and drivers against each other – but more importantly, against the mountain.

Insane vertical drops edge the route, sliding off the road can lead to the kind of cliff plunge that drivers will not get up and walk away from. The change of elevation is so great that it can be sunny at the base and snowing at the top. Not only that, as oxygen levels drop with elevation, so combustion engine power drops with vehicles losing around 30% of their power by the top.

Despite this, teams flock to take up the challenge. Big money manufacturer backed teams show off their vehicles competing alongside back yard-built analogue vehicles. It has an interesting role in racing history. When turbo charged rally cars were outlawed by the WRC as too fast and powerful – outcast from world rallying, these cars were still able to triumph on ‘America’s mountain’.

There’s an excitement and challenge to this race. Everyone is there to race the mountain and a feeling that ‘the mountain will decide’ the winner.

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The film documents several different attempts on records – an old school open wheeler, a production SUV (the Bentley Bentayga 6l twin turbo W12 ) and a Porsche Caymen GT4 race their class record. But the most advanced is VW’s attempt on the electric vehicle – and the overall - record.

Setting a challenge and creating the perfect vehicle – and the team – is a tradition in automotive. Like the Porsche focus on Le Mans winning cars back in the 60s and early 70s.

Seeing VW – which hasn’t yet made a huge name for itself in the electric vehicle field – creating an electric vehicle that takes on the record – is promising for the future of electric VWs. The IDR, developed in just six months and tested a few short weeks before the challenge itself, is truly state of the art.

With the inclusion of a top driver, Roman Dumas, a Le Mans and previous Pikes Peak winner, primed to take on the challenge, VW proclaimed its ambition to take not just the electric record but also the overall record of 8 minutes 13 seconds.

With the natural advantages of the electric motor of instant torque and power remaining constant at altitude, there is real possibility that not only the record will fall but that the team could break 8 minute barrier – the magic unattainable time. This means taking this twisty climbing course bounded by cliff edges at an average of 90 miles per hour.

It’s a great and nail biting watch – watch and enjoy (no spoilers). Be sure though, that whatever the outcome the EV game moves forward.

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by Beate Kubitz at 30 Jan 2019, 00:00 AM