Dan Panoz Unveils EV Racer for Le Mans

Ladies and gentlemen, start your … electric motor?

That could one day be the future command spoken at the beginning of automobile races.

Or maybe not – after all, one of the appeals of racing is the sound of high-strung internal-combustion engines at full throttle. But there’s almost certainly a place for electric cars in racing, whether EVs are competing against internal-combustion engines, in their own spec series or even if all racecars someday become EVs.

Famed racer and car builder Dan Panoz is bringing an all-wheel-drive EV to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, but it won’t be entered in one of the world’s most famous races – at least not this year.

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Panoz is bringing the car, called the Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV, to France for display for this year’s race. If the race’s sanctioning body is approving of the car, it could be entered in the 2018 race as an “innovative car” entry.

Panoz and Brian Willis, the vice president of engineering and design for Green4U Technologies, both have extensive motorsport backgrounds and impressive racing resumes. That doesn’t guarantee this car will be a success.

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On the other hand, the car is a spiritual successor to the DeltaWing, which was an “innovative car” entry itself in 2012. That car was running well until another driver hit it. Of course, even if the DeltaWing had finished the race, an “innovative car” runs as exhibition-only.

Green4U absorbed DeltaWing’s company, DeltaWing Technologies. The plans are grand, as Green4U has ambitious plans to make more EVs. And Panoz wants to build a street car based on the racecar.

The initial car came in at a weight that was too heavy, so Willis adjusted. The car has tandem seating (the passenger sits directly behind the driver), with the battery located where the passenger compartment usually is.

That battery will last about 90 to 110 miles or 55 minutes under race conditions. When it’s depleted, it will have to be swapped out. To accomplish this, the right side of the body will swing up and out of the way. The pit crew will take out the 1,000-pound battery via a turntable that has mechanical arms, while using that same turntable and its arms to put the new battery in. The old battery will then go behind the pit wall for charging.

Willis told AutoWeek that the crew will need 10 or more batteries for the race.

Other key specs include a power rating of around 600 horsepower (450 kW) and a length of 192 inches, a width of 72 inches and a height of 48 inches. That makes it over a foot longer than a Chevy Corvette Z06 but about five inches narrower, at the same height. Top speed could be around 170 or 180 mph.

The car has motors that power the front wheels, regenerative braking and plenty of weight-reducing carbon fiber. Aerodynamics will be important, as the better they are, the faster the car can go will using less juice.

Development work is being done in Braselton, Ga., and the company is looking for suppliers. Meanwhile, the road car will be expected to cost between $100,000 and $200,000, with just one battery pack that can be recharged the same other battery packs are.

There’s two ways the race car could fail – one would be not being allowed to race and the other would be to perform poorly if it’s allowed to enter. But that’s not going to stop Panoz and Green4U from trying. And even if this car doesn’t succeed, there will be as many lessons learned from failure than as from success.

AutoWeek