BMW ActiveE and Coda electric sedan

2012 REFUEL electric car and motorcycle race bigger and badder than ever


In what may be the biggest yet assemblage of high powered electric vehicles, the 2012 REFUEL races, in its fourth year, is turning into a powerhouse of an informal electric racing event.

If the electric car stereotype never changes, many think electric vehicle adoption will be slow. The stereotype? That they're slow, boring, ugly, golf carts, that no MAN in his right mind would ever drive. The REFUEL race, now in its fourth year, is a chance to bring electric cars and motorcyles on a world-class race track, Laguna Seca, for some serious electric fun and racing action. Last weekend's REFUEL 2012 was perhaps the largest ever assemblage of high powered electric cars and motorcycles in one place. The topmost of these were Brammo's Empulse RR prototype electric motorcycle, electric race cars from Kleenspeed and Yokohama, and a flotilla of Tesla Model S's and Tesla Roadsters, as well as BMW ActiveE's, Nissan Leaf's, and even a couple Chevy Volts.

In 2009, the first REFUEL event was a few conversion electric cars, a few conversion electric motorcycles, and a few Tesla Roadsters, the only production electric vehicle in its time. Today there are several manufacturers selling high quality electric vehicles, and REFUEL 2012 was dominated by production electric vehicles. That's how far electric vehicles have come in the last few years.

Two full-on electric race cars came, one the EV-X11 from Kleenspeed, the other is Ikuo Hanawa's off-road electric race car sponsored by Yokohama Tires. Kleenspeed has run at REFUEL since 2009, and uses those results to claim their car is the fastest electric track race car in the world. This was the first year for Hanawa and Yokohama at REFUEL, their attendance prompted because of the postponement of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. See Electric race cars from Yokohama and Kleenspeed at REFUEL 2012 for a writeup of these two cars.

The main focus of REFUEL is a time trial race where the drivers are not racing each other, but competing for the best lap time. However, the rest of the day is normal racing action meant so the drivers could practice and learn the track. REFUEL is organized by Speed Ventures, a racing instruction school, and is run partly for instruction, and partly for the race results. While some of the attendees are experienced race drivers, most are individuals who own an electric vehicle and are loving the chance for a track day at the famous Laguna Seca raceway.

The pleasant surprise of the event was the results of the production electric car class. Of the 25 cars in that class, up from 10 cars in 2011, the top four were Tesla Model S's, and the next four were Tesla Roadsters. The Model S, as a luxury sedan, isn't what one would think would be beating a sports car like the Tesla Roadster, but there it is.

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