A veteran driver may win Pikes Peak in a modern electric race car this year
Electric car fans are very proud that racing is embracing the technology. There is no better example of how well an electric car can do against any competition than at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb held annually in Colorado. Although an electric car is not the record holder for the course, the stars are aligning and it may be possible that could happen soon. This year is not out of the question.
Last year Ryhs Millen broke the record and won the race outright in a custom Hyundai Genesis Coupe. That car had a 700 horsepower, gasoline engine. This year Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) will make a run at the win in a vehicle that has run the course before, but it is the driver and a service vehicle that TMG sees as key to its chances.
The driver is a guy named Millen. This time Rod Millen. Ryhs’ dad. Rod has much more Pikes Peak experience than son Ryhs having won the open class and also the showroom class in the 1990s. The team bringing the car also has a lot of Pikes Peak experience. Last year the car broke the class record with a time of 10 minutes 15.38 seconds. That is only about 30 seconds off the overall winning time. Using highly sophisticated data analysis the team expects to shave time off last year’s run. This is not something that is just a hope for the team. They used the same type of strategy to improve their time around Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife by about 25 seconds.
The car itself is the EV P002. It has power, handling and reliability to win the race in the electric class, but maybe even make a run at the overall win. However, it is not the second part of the plan that TMG is counting on. That is in fact a whopper of a battery sitting inside a Hiace work van. On Pikes Peak there is no reliable source of power to charge the electric car. So instead of AC power, TMG will hook the EV P002 up to the 42 kWh battery via a DC/DC connection. This is a system the team developed and has used successfully before. Claudia Brasse, TMG’s Executive Coordinator for Strategic EV Development explained the charging plan this way; “The potential for off-board battery-to-battery charging technology is great, particularly in the world of motorsport where infrastructure limitations will increasingly become a source of frustration for electric motorsport. We have a flexible solution which can be adapted for different types of race and passenger car. We look forward to again demonstrating both aspects of our EV technology at Pikes Peak.”
The Pikes Peak race is known for its unpredictability. EVs have been coming closer and closer to dominating Pikes Peak. Rain on the course when some strong challengers make their run can make other participants who drive it in the dry do better by comparison. Experience is helpful but the whole course is now paved after being a combination of pavement and dirt for decades. The perfect storm of conditions could happen to cause a veteran driver in an ultra-modern electric car to post the best time of the day. Race day is scheduled for June 30th.