We imagine NASCAR as a series of all-electric SUVs
NASCAR’s stated goal for their “stock cars” has always been to mirror (in some sense) what you might buy from the dealership. But the electric vehicles from these manufacturers, at present, are all SUVs or crossovers, which reflect the norm of everyday life here in the United States. This is potentially why NASCAR could be open to manufacturers using the Toyota bZ4X, Chevrolet Blazer EV and Ford Mustang. Mach-E as these are the common body types that these manufacturers use for their electric vehicles. Here’s what it might look like:
The race itself
Sound aside, how different would an all-electric NASCAR race be? For now, it looks like they’re sticking with a 30-minute sprint race rather than a multi-hour endurance race for these EVs. The advantage is that the time limit would allow the cars to run without needing a charge in the middle of a race. Even with a 900-volt battery system and a 400kW charge rate, you’re still talking 20 minutes to charge a battery that would potentially last the 60-80 mile life of the tires in a race. The regenerative braking provided by the motors of these purpose-built racing electric vehicles would help with this. Even in a short sprint race format, driving strategy (essentially, energy management) would play an important role in racing. Go hard and hope the gap holds, or will you hold early for a late charge?
The next-generation Formula E car, which will debut in the 2022/2023 season, is a good illustration of what a NASCAR EV series could look like. It’s capable of covering a full 45-minute race distance with a top speed of 200 mph (compared to 174 mph in the Gen 2 car) without charging its 800-volt battery system. It will also regenerate up to 40% of its battery capacity while racing using a 250kW front motor used only for regeneration (limited to 600kW regeneration). This also means that it won’t use hydraulic rear brakes either, as its regenerative system is fully capable of stopping this car at race speeds with the hydraulic front brakes. Formula E will also charge these cars between sessions with a 600kW charger and plans to start charging during pit stops in the very near future. Its rear-drive motor produces 469 hp, and the car itself weighs 1,852 pounds.
Under the skin
The chassis itself will remain the same, again according to the alleged document, but the front and rear clips will be modified to accept the electric powertrain and store the batteries, but will retain the same suspension and braking system as the Gen Seven car. NASCAR is also looking to use three motors in an AWD layout, as most OEMs make their high-performance electric vehicles with a single motor in the front and two in the rear. Using a 900-volt battery, these motors will have plenty of speed (electric motors need high voltage to spin faster), but NACAR also wants them to produce over 1,000 hp when combined.
NASCAR should look to STARD to provide such capable engines. STARD was the motor and battery systems supplier for Ford’s latest SuperVan project, which uses four motors to produce 1,973 hp. If NASCAR ends up using a similar engine system and all of those engines produce the same power, a 1,480hp NASCAR EV is possible. Ford’s electric SuperVan also uses a 50kWh liquid-cooled battery that charges in just 45 minutes via a standard DC fast charger. Although the engines are the same, the sound of each NASCAR EV could be very different, unique to each manufacturer. A Toyota bZ4X won’t sound like a Chevrolet Blazer EV or a Ford Mustang Mach-E.
It is also very possible that each manufacturer will supply their own engines and electronics whose output is regulated by NASCAR rather than using those supplied by STARD, as is done with Formula E and their manufacturers. If NASCAR wishes to retain OEM support, we would expect these STARD-supplied engines and electronics to only be for these early show races and may even discontinue them entirely beginning with OEM-supplied engines. .
NASCAR estimates that the risk of fire is about equal to what its gas-powered cars currently face, and it would take an absolute breach of the safety cell for a fire to even break out. We anticipate that NASCAR will place the battery in the cabin area. By centralizing the battery pack, impact damage is greatly minimized; the strongest part of the car is the cabin. Looking at other EV racing series like Extreme E (Formula E’s off-road EV series) and Nitro Rallycross’ Group E (where the impacts aren’t unusual), that’s where a battery. This could lead to safer cars with better weight distribution than their gas-powered cousins.
Ford might have an advantage here
When it comes to producing electric racing cars, Ford potentially has a head start in development. While Ford and Chevrolet have both made EV drag cars, Ford is currently the only manufacturer to break out of the quarter mile with the aforementioned electric SuperVan and Mustang Mach-E 1400. Whichever way NASCAR goes with the EV engines and electronics in its rule set, Ford has both worked with STARD and used its own in-house technology. For the Mach-E 1400, Ford used six motors with three sandwiched for each drive axle, connected to a quick-change differential and swappable suspension. With a simple shift and suspension, the Mach-E 1400 is capable of drifting, smooth track racing and even rally-style racing. For the SuperVan it uses four STARD motors but the front is single-speed while the rear has been configured with a two-speed. First gear was very low for its sub-2 second 0-60 mph time while its second gear was used for higher speeds (over 198 mph) and more efficient operation.
Toyota seems to be the only manufacturer to break out of the insane EV loop. Its entire line of performance cars is powered by ICE and it has been more involved in hybrid and hydrogen power plants, but high-performance electric vehicles are not out of the company’s sights. In December, Toyota unveiled its future all-EV lineup and one promising star was the Lexus Electrified Sport supercar. Looking like a Supra on steroids, this future electric vehicle would not only use solid-state batteries, but also propel itself to 62 mph in the low two-second range. Again, if NASCAR decides to open up some electric tech, it could give Toyota a chance to use racing to improve its own street EV product.
In fact, all this NASCAR EV future would potentially bring back an old motto: run on Sunday, sell on Monday. Instead of small pushrod V-8 blocks that are not used in cars sold by OEMs (well, except for Chevrolet), it will be an all-electric powertrain and battery technology that will pass directly from the race car. to the tram. This is a future we would like to see more of.