Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) race is one of the few events where all electric race cars run the same course along side with their fuel burning counterparts. The 24 hours of Le Mans already showed us that diesel-electric and gasoline-electric racers can win and dominate the sport. However, all electric cars cannot run over 24 hours and hundreds of miles (unless they have hot swappable batteries). So, can the current state-of-the-art EV racer beat a fuel burner?
Lets take a look at the 2013 PPIHC results. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima and his 2013 E-Runner Pikes Peak Special took the win in the Electric division with a time of 9:46.530. This time was far away from the insane 8:13.878 set by the Peugeot of Sebastien Loeb. We need to look a little deeper to figure out what really happened. Sebastien Loeb and other ‘Unlimited’ division drivers ran in the dry. By the time, the ‘Time Attack’ and ‘Electric’ division started up the mountain – hail, sleet, and rain covered most of the road course.
Paul Dallenbach won the ‘Time Attack’ division with the time of 9:46.001 in his 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe race car. Paul and Monster ran the course in comparable slippery conditions and were separated only by half a second (0.529). How much faster could Monster’s E-Runner be in the dry? We will have to wait to find out. The E-Runner was putting close to a combined 1,000 horsepower to all four wheels via Giti tires. Genesis Coupe was sending around 720 horsepower to the rear wheels and Hankook tires.
The biggest differentiator is the curb weight of the race car. We all know that batteries tend to be heavy. The E-Runner team would not disclose any details about the batteries they are using. All we know is – they are very expensive and could be related to batteries for military applications.
Tire selection is crucial at Pikes Peak and any race. Monster Tajima approached Giti Tire to provide the rubber for his electric beast. Interestingly, he also asked for large (20 inch) rim size slicks. Was Monster just trying to look cool? Perhaps. However, the larger wheel diameter allows for more flexibility with electric motor installation and also can provide for better cooling. Giti delivered on this custom request, and also had to turn most of the slicks into intermediates or full wets for Sunday’s race. The tires were likely the deciding factor for Monster, as Mitsubishi and Toyota electric racers were quicker in dry practice and qualifying.
I hope that the Electric cars get to run in the dry next year, and really show us their raw potential.
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been a contributor at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.