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RE: Embracing our electric future

RE: Embracing our electric future

Thursday 23rd November 2017

Electric GT series hits the track

Why electric racing series are crucial to the sustainability of motorsport



What is it that compels a Scotsman with a background in software engineering - a man who, by his own admission, "knows nothing about motorsport" - to dedicate his professional life to launching a race series for Tesla's electric cars? Quite apart from the fact there are already so many various motorsport championships without enough teams and drivers to fill them all, the two-tonne plus Model S is so big and heavy that it's about as fit to go racing as a rhinoceros is to herd sheep.


Just imagine it: 20 lardy Tesla land whales lumbering around a race track, brakes cooking and batteries derating so rapidly with the effort of it all that after four or five laps they can hardly haul themselves up the next gentle incline. At least the ear-splitting hum of all those electric motors will add some wow-factor...

Yes, it's very easy to be cynical about a Tesla Model S racing series. You can't help but wonder exactly what demand it's supposed to satisfy. But Electric GT founder and CEO Mark Gemmell doesn't just see a demand for this sort of series. He reckons it's essential to the future of motorsport.

"It's time to embrace our electric future," he comments. "If you're worried about the environment it makes little sense to race, unless we do something to make the energy clean and abundant. If we do that, we can race all we want for evermore."


Gemmell is probably right. Over the past few years it's become increasingly clear that the future of motoring is electric, and so it stands to reason that in decades to come the world's car makers will want to show off the performance and agility of their battery powered cars in the arena of motorsport. Manufacturers have raced for decades to promote their wares and there's no reason to believe that will come grinding to halt just because they'll one day swap hydrocarbons for electricity.

Formula E will give those manufacturers a single-seater, it-looks-like-a-racing-car platform to show what they can do with a stack of batteries and a motor or two, but there isn't, as yet, a championship specifically for production-based, it-looks-like-a-road-car electric vehicles. Gemmell's Electric GT could be just that. It isn't a stretch to imagine that some day Porsche might enter its forthcoming Mission E electric saloon, and that Audi, Jaguar, Polestar and the rest might fancy a slice of the action, too.


When it kicks off next summer though, and for the foreseeable, Electric GT will be a single-make series. The plan is for 20 identical cars to compete throughout Europe with well-known GT and touring car drivers at the helm. The cars will be based on the Model S P100D, the twin-motor powertrain tweaked to deliver some 790hp and a 2.1 second 0-62mph time.

Renowned Spanish race team Campos Racing will develop and build the cars. They get functional aero, carbon bodywork, race-spec suspension and brakes, Pirelli tyres and, depending on who you ask, a weight loss of between 300 and 500kg. Apparently, at competition speeds the cars will have a range of just over 50 miles, which would be enough for a decent sprint race.

At a launch event at Pau Arnos - Electric GT's adopted headquarters - in the south-west of France I drove the Model S race car for a handful of laps. Except I didn't, because the only car that exists right now is actually based on the lesser, single-motor P85+. So although the car's straight line performance was lusty rather than neck snapping, I did see enough to be persuaded that the hefty Model S could be turned into a passable racing car. Even on rain tyres on a dry track there was very good grip, a neutral balance, rock solid body control and bundles of stability. It actually felt like a very capable track car, quite unlike any Model S I've ever driven.


But then the brakes started to fade after three laps and the motor lost some punch as the batteries ran down. Campos Racing still has lots of work to do if it's to build a proper racing car out of the Tesla, but I do now believe it can be done.

Electric GT still needs to sign up race teams to run the cars - so far it has one, SPV Racing - and inevitably it'll need to attract further sponsors if it's to make that first race happen. It's jumping through the FIA's hoops as you read this to secure proper accreditation too.

All of which leads us back around to that opening gambit. What is it that compels Mark Gemmell, a man with no background in motor racing, to launch a race series for electric cars? "We're living off fossil fuels at the moment and that isn't sustainable," he says. "The car industry is dragging its heels because it's easier to do what it's always done. But if the public demands the change, the industry will change on a dime. So how do we get everybody out there enthusiastic [about renewable energy]? We do fun things with it, like going racing. We get out on circuit, we go hell for leather fast, we scare ourselves to death and we have fun doing it."

So this isn't simply about giving Tesla's electric car a platform to go racing. Instead, Gemmell wants to harness the inherent thrill, excitement and glamour of motorsport to inspire the wider public to switch on to renewable and abundant energies. I'm a long way from convinced as I type this, but I'm willing to hang up my cynicism for the time being.

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

HardMiles

Original Poster:

65 posts

11 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Just no.

Racing should smell of unburnt fuel, sound like wasps killing each other whilst strangling eagles, I'm not for this at all.

Just look at how big an event Revival is now, just shows we all want raw unbridled vicious cars, they way they used to be!

mylesmcd

1,817 posts

144 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
HardMiles said:
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Just no.

Racing should smell of unburnt fuel, sound like wasps killing each other whilst strangling eagles, I'm not for this at all.

Just look at how big an event Revival is now, just shows we all want raw unbridled vicious cars, they way they used to be!
Winter is coming Jon Snow.......................

99dndd

508 posts

14 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Motorsport has always been a good place to test, develop and refine road car technology.

We'll always have petrol car racing, we're still racing horses.

The Crack Fox

12,660 posts

117 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
"Sustainable" - Please fk off with such language. How is building a new car, using all those materials, charging it, using all that electricity, and then racing it, which means going round in circles for no discernible reason, ever be "sustainable". Please, fk off, and I mean right off, not just a bit, properly off.

DapperDanMan

2,479 posts

132 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
"Except I didn't, because the only car that exists right now is actually based on the lesser, single-motor P85D"

Is that a typo? The D stands for Dual which is 4wd.
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kambites

53,083 posts

146 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
I'm all for it if it pushes the technology so the things can actually produce maximum power for more than a few minutes before they overheat.

jason61c

2,755 posts

99 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
The headline is just totally misleading.

Its one mans thoughts why its needed in motorsport.

Its more likely to ruin the thrill of racing. The noise, the smell.

cmoose

40,218 posts

154 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
The sustainability angle from an environmental aspect is intergalactic balls.

The circus of a race series is very carbon intensive. Transporting all the people and kit and cars from race to race etc, not to mention all the fans travelling to the race, is nearly all done on predominantly fossil power in most countries and that's a far, far, far (far!) larger chunk of the overall energy footprint than the race. And of course the race cars are probably charged on fossils, too.

It's not just disingenuous, it's downright dishonest to pitch electric race cars as sustainable in that regard. Making the race cars electric makes virtually no difference to the carbon footprint of going racing.

You would, in the final analysis, have to be either very stupid or a bit of a sthead to claim otherwise.

Oilchange

4,661 posts

185 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Eloquently put.

shakotan

9,342 posts

121 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Formula E seems popular though?

kambites

53,083 posts

146 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
cmoose said:
Making the race cars electric makes virtually no difference to the carbon footprint of going racing.
There is an argument that racing the things will drive technical improvements which will filter down into road cars and hasten their adoption.

framerateuk

2,330 posts

109 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Racing will never be full environmentally friendly due to the logistics of moving cars around and planning races.

There's no reason the cars shouldn't be using a renewable energy source though.

Petrol's days are numbered guys. But as has been mentioned, we still have horse racing and classic car races. I don't see any change to that, but the mainstream races will be focused on modern technology, and burning hydrocarbons isn't the future....

cookie1600

830 posts

86 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
Well why not go the whole hog and sanitise it even more by removing any risk and using the Tesla's full self-driving capability? Get rid of the drivers as well as the exctitment, atmosphere and emotion associated with ICE race vehicles.

In fact, to 'help the environment' we could also get rid of all those dirty support vehicles, hospitality suites, support crew, marshals and perhaps even prevent race fans travelling miles in dirty ICE powered cars. filling up car-parks with their stinking, noisy, polluting monstrosities.

Of course, the perfect answer, just stay at home and do it yourself:



Thin end of the wedge lads, thin end of the wedge.....

DoubleTime

785 posts

67 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
The Crack Fox said:
"Sustainable" - Please fk off with such language. How is building a new car, using all those materials, charging it, using all that electricity, and then racing it, which means going round in circles for no discernible reason, ever be "sustainable". Please, fk off, and I mean right off, not just a bit, properly off.
The man has a point! laughlaughlaughlaugh

LordGrover

28,661 posts

137 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
cmoose said:
The sustainability angle from an environmental aspect is intergalactic balls.
You and I seem to have interpreted this differently.
The racing is to promote and encourage new technologies by existing and new car manufacturers. In turn, this research and development will be employed universally for the benefit of all.
The racing itself doesn't need to be sustainable.
Joe Public is happy to pay for entertainment, less so for R&D.

SPMX5

66 posts

65 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
STOP IT I DONT LIKE CHANGE OR ANYTHING DIFRENT AT ALL STOP IT I DONT LIKE IT

cmoose

40,218 posts

154 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
LordGrover said:
You and I seem to have interpreted this differently.
The racing is to promote and encourage new technologies by existing and new car manufacturers. In turn, this research and development will be employed universally for the benefit of all.
The racing itself doesn't need to be sustainable.
Joe Public is happy to pay for entertainment, less so for R&D.
The racing won't promote truly significant new tech in this context, that's a fantasy. Racing is miles behind road when it comes to electric and nobody is going to invest billions in new battery tech for some half arsed race series - but they will and are doing so for road cars.

For electric it comes down to battery energy density and racing will have very little impact on that. It's a mega money long ball game working to make batteries more energy dense.

Show me a race car that has proprietary battery cells like a combustion race car has a proprietary engine and I'll take notice. But you won't be able to because developing and tooling up to manufacture proprietary battery cells is a non starter for racing. The big companies barely do it. Even Tesla has a battery partner. You can't have boutique bespoke battery cell tech like you can with combustion race car engines.

If you want to make an argument for racing in these terms, the only angle that's remotely convincing is to argue that it makes electric look cool and might drive adoption on those terms. But in my view that's pretty tenuous and not nearly enough to justify the sustainability pitch with a straight face.

suffolk009

3,390 posts

90 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
I'm looking forward to the 24h.

pardonmyenglish

34 posts

36 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
LordGrover said:
You and I seem to have interpreted this differently.
The racing is to promote and encourage new technologies by existing and new car manufacturers. In turn, this research and development will be employed universally for the benefit of all.
The racing itself doesn't need to be sustainable.
Joe Public is happy to pay for entertainment, less so for R&D.
I have never really believed in that. I remember when renault retired from F1 after several years of dominance. They said that they were going to use their expertise to develop performance engines for road car. It was around the time of the gestation of the clio V6.
And what did they do to tune their V6 engine, they hired TWR to do the job...
So much for F1 racing knowledge helping the customers product.

And look at the most "interesting" developments of the ICE in recent history. Toyota and their hybrid, mazda and their skyengines, nissan and their variable compression inspired by volvo, none of these have racing roots.

Plate spinner

12,320 posts

125 months

Thursday 23rd November 2017
quotequote all
An electric one-make series is pointless IMO - just look at how ste that Formula E thing is.
It's like the 'fun run' novelty race at the end of school sports day for all the non-athletic kids - ultimately nobody cares who wins expect those with a vested interest in the non-athletic kids....

When electric racers are competing on level terms with IC cars over a proper race distance (not just 0-100-0 sprints) - and winning due to power, handling, battery endurance vs fuel tank capacity etc - then attitudes may change dramatically and very quickly.

But I don't see this happening - racing authorities seem to love having regs so tight that you just see a parade of near identical cars on any given grid with no significant opportunity for new tech and engineering prowess to rise to the top..