Despite mechanical failures and somewhat reduced road traction, two electric cars stormed to the top of Pikes Peak yesterday in record times, with Rys Millen’s Latvian-built Drive eO taking first ahead of all internal combustion competitors.
Both Millen’s winning car and Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s Rimac E-Runner Concept_One – purpose-built for The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb – are rated for more than 1 megawatt power (over 1,300-horsepower) and major torque.
Millen’s unofficial time of 9:07.222 was 25 seconds ahead of Tajiima’s and despite the entry in the history books, Millen said he was “frustrated” when 50-percent of power was cut with loss of a rear motor pack halfway through the race.
“I guess I should put a smile on my face, but we were still 30 seconds off our target,” said Millen. “It’s a new record, but not one I’m happy with … “If it had just been an 8:59, I would have been happier. It’s one more year we have to wait.”
Tajima in turn lost braking power near the top of the course but chose to gut it out and keep going to a second-place time of 9:32.401.
“It was very dangerous for me,” said Tajima, who has taken overall wins at Pikes Peak in previous years. “Too fast and no brakes.”
According to a local news report, he had no explanation for why he chose to drive on the treacherous course without brakes in a 1,300 horsepower car.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The lower-9-minute times by these EVs were the quickest of the day, but not enough to topple 8:13.878, the all-time record set in 2013 by Sébastien Loeb in his 875-horsepower Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak. Loeb not so incidentally turned his 2013 time at the expense of Millen, who’d held the record of 9:46.164 until Loeb’s first-time appearance at the Pikes Peak race.
Undoubtedly, Millen wanted to do better, if not topple Loeb’s 8:13.878, and he wanted to do it in an EV.
But holding the EVs back is not lack of power, but rather curb weight.
Due to the weight of the batteries, Millen’s winning car weighs 2,645 pounds (1,200 kg), and the record-holding Peugeot from last year weighed 1,929 pounds (875 kg).
The EV is an amazing effort though, built by a father-son team in Latvia with 1.2 horsepower per kg compared to the Peugeot which boasted 1.0 horsepower per kg – or the prized 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. And it was around 700 pounds lighter.
Called the e0 PPO3, the EV Millen drove otherwise is not one any self-respecting EV enthusiast would likely kick out of the garage.
Its all-wheel-drive, has six YASA-400 electric motors with eO controllers and peak power is rated at 1,368 horsepower (1,020 kilowatts), and 1,593 pounds feet of torque (2,160 Nm).
The li-ion battery is 50 kwh for the single-speed machine. Frame is tubular steel and body is carbon fiber. Brakes are 378 mm up front, 330 mm in back. Slick racing tires are 320/710 R18 on 13-inch × 18-inch wheels.
Top speed is rated at 161 mph (260 kph).
And, on paper it even edges out the heavier 3,300-pound (1,500 kg) Rimac racer, itself a daunting 1,341-horsepower machine.
Unknown is how either car would do in ideal conditions.
Further compounding issues, is that despite clear weather, heat and dust on the road surface reduced ability of tires to grip according to local reports.
Qualifying runs prior to race day saw better road traction, but on race day a more-slippery surface surprised competitors as warm temperatures caused heat to radiate from the pavement and drying conditions saw surrounding sand from the gravel blow onto the road.
The conditions were not what was blamed for a Thursday qualifying run death of a motorcyclist, Carl Sorensen, but other drivers reported nearly losing it on the high-mountain road.
But this is all part of the gamble that is racing. And next year, the EVs will be back.