AC Propulsion Takes Record Win at Pikes Peak

An open-wheeled electric race car set a new EV record this weekend at the 89th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Driven by Japan’s Ikuo Hanawa and built by Summit Motorsports, the rear-wheel drive machine was powered by an AC Propulsion drive system to finish in 12:20.084.

This time beat all other electric cars and motorcycles, and topped AC Propulsion’s own record run set last year at 13:17.575.

The all-time record was set this year too in the Unlimited class at 9:51.28 by Nobuhiro Tajima, which puts the world’s fastest EV about 2:29 behind the world’s fastest Pikes Peak race vehicle, period.

“AC Propulsion electric drive systems deliver performance,” said AC Propulsion CEO Tom Gage. “Our string of Pikes Peak EV records–especially this one, where we are well into the 12-minute bracket–clearly demonstrates that electric vehicles can get up the hill fast. Now that more people are buying EVs, it’s important to offer really good performance. For us, the old racing slogan holds: win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Actually, the powertrain was quite similar to the system AC Propulsion used when it partnered in 2008 with BMW to convert 500 Cooper Mini cars to EV spec.

In its current trim, the AC-180 motor delivered 200 kilowatts (268 horsepower) at 6000-7000 rpm, and 258 pound-feet of torque from 0-5000 rpm.

The trick to putting the power down fully was a highly effective cooling system developed for this year’s Pikes Peak challenge.

Rather than race rubber, the car made it up the hill on “fuel-efficient Yokohama BluEarth tires” provided by the names’ sake sponsor.

According to Mark Chung, director of product planning for for Yokohama Tire Corporation, the tires were more than up to the task however.

“The orange oil technology showcased in our flagship eco tire, dB Super E spec was borne out of racing activities, such as the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. And for Yokohama, this all started over twenty years ago,” Chung said, “When we think of race tires, we commonly think of very sticky and soft tires that are heavily-laden with petroleum-based synthetic rubber. Utilizing our proprietary technologies in combining orange oil and natural rubber, we are able to deliver superb levels of grip for this hill climb while not compromising on the eco sensibilities.”

Chung said the adage of “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” applies also in this case.

“As seen in our ADVAN ENV-R2 Porsche GT3 Cup tires, this orange oil technology has been tested in the most grueling environment and applications, and transferred to our consumer products (we call this process ‘from the track to the cul-de-sac’),” Chung said, “The levels of grip and the resulting lap times of our ENV-R2 has been excellent, outpacing the previous tire’s lap times consistently.”

So there you have it: A consumer tire now holds the EV record at the famous Pikes Peak event.

The legendary nine-decade-old hill climbing spectacle is run on a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns that begins at 9,390 feet and finish at the 14,110 foot summit.

While the AC Propulsion racer’s cooling issue had to be overcome, electric vehicles have one advantage over internal combustion power: They do not require dense air intake to power them.

The high altitude approaching the summit is known to cut internal combustion engine power by as much as 30 percent, and it also makes respiration more taxing for their human drivers as they muscle the vehicles around all those corners.

As AC Propulsion’s CEO implied above, the racing win carries good PR value for the EV component maker based in San Dimas, Calif., and we would add, speaks to the heart of die-hard ICE fans that EVs can be fast and fun too.

AC Propulsion terms its proprietary technology “tzero,” and it can be applied to anything from city buses to cars.

AC Propulsion is also an innovator in vehicle-to-grid applications.

Its mission is to develop and prove electric vehicle capabilities in light of waning oil supplies and environmental challenges.

The company was founded in 1992 and has six patents. We look forward to seeing what it can do at Pikes Peak next year considering it improved its game enough to lop almost a whole minute off of its previous record time.


  • usbseawolf2000

    Broke the world record with low rolling resistance tires made from orange oil. Awesome!

  • Plumbing-Excellence

    Amazing sports car!
    Rocking!

  • James Davis

    The best part…it proves that EV is no longer the little brother to ICE…ICE is now the little brother to EV.

  • AP

    Did you miss the part where it was 2 minutes and 29 seconds behind the fastest ICE?

    Two an a half minutes is just about forever in racing!

  • Electric Thrill

    Enjoy the ICE-age cars final year or two before they fade like the Neanderthals. Gasp choke gasp…

  • Anonymous

    Is this a repost of press release from AC Propulsion? :)

  • bfgair

    Yes 2.5 min is a long time when racing. One thing to consider is that a lot of high priced big horsepower machines finished behind them and a lot of them didn’t finish at all. Way to go and way to show the world that there is a diffrent choice.