An electric scooter that can travel 100 km / h (62 mph)? Meet the sleek new machine designed to leave the clunky scooters you see buzzing around suburban High Streets in the dust.
“This is a racing vehicle,” says Nicola Scimeca, founder of YCOM, a motor sports technology company. “It’s completely different.”
The S1-X, designed by his company, has inflatable tires, a 1.5 kilowatt-hour battery and a carbon fiber frame. And according to Scimeca, it offers unexpectedly stable driving.
“What was really impressive was the confidence it gives you,” he adds, recalling his first test lap.
And, of course, there was no noise from the exhaust, instead, Mr. Scimeca says he could hear the screeching of the electric motor as it accelerated up and down, and the hum of the tires as they gripped the track.
The S1-X is a brand new racing vehicle. It will be used by all competitors at next year’s eSkootr Championship, the world’s first e-scooter championship event.
But there are many other electric vehicle (EV) racing events popping up across the country that show and defend important advances in electric vehicle technology.
Formula E has been around for years, but lately there has been a flood of new EV racing events.
Others include the Extreme E racing series, launched earlier this year. Inside, electric SUVs compete in a variety of off-road events. And in 2022, SuperCharge will bring electric vehicle racing to the streets of cities around the world.
“We feel we are really inventing a new sport,” says Scimeca, noting that his team had no real precedent to build upon when he started designing his racing e-scooter. They weren’t even sure how, exactly, the bikers would handle the vehicle.
It turns out to be a physically draining task. High-speed e-scooter riders need to quickly adjust their position in almost every bend.
Thankfully, however, each eSkootr championship run will only last four to five minutes, partly because the relatively small battery built into the scooter’s base doesn’t last long.
A single charge could only cover three or four heats before the juice runs out, says Mr. Scimeca.
For any electric vehicle driver, a dead battery means the game is over, so it’s something the entire racing team needs to consider when switching cars between heats, says Roger Griffiths, Andretti United team principal. Extreme E.
“All of us who came from conventional motorsport felt very comfortable with internal combustion engine cars,” he explains.
“When we started driving an electric race car it was a lot, ‘What the hell are we doing here?’.”
It can take three to four hours, he says, to circle an electric racing vehicle with a dead battery, compared to an hour to cool down, refuel and check a hot Formula 1 car.
Safety and weight
But there are also entirely different safety considerations, given the high-voltage electronics involved in handling EV race cars.
A series of Extreme E races took place in Sardinia last month and one of the cars, driven by Stéphane Sarrazin, was badly damaged in a barrel roll. In such cases, engineers need to make absolutely sure that there are no active electronic components exposed, says Griffiths. “You have to treat him with caution until you know he’s safe,” she adds.
Electric vehicles also tend to be a bit heavier than traditional racing vehicles, due to their heavy batteries, however their weight distribution does not change during the race unlike their counterparts which run on liquid fuel which wears out lap. after lap. Hence, electric vehicles behave slightly differently for drivers.
One of the goals of the Extreme E events is to showcase the capabilities and robustness of electric vehicles. The track in Sardinia in Italy was a particularly tough test, being very dusty at first, and then getting wetter as the race weekend progressed.
For Extreme E, all drivers race using a specially designed electric SUV called the Odyssey 21. The cars get their energy from on-site generators that use biofuel or hydrogen, says Griffiths: “We’re here to prove these cars can be green.”
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The Odyssey 21 is also demonstrating technology that could eventually make its way to humbler consumer electric vehicles. A key example is the silicon carbide semiconductors found in Formula E and Extreme E cars. These semiconductors allow for significantly more efficient power transfer within the vehicle, potentially offering tens of miles of additional range on the same battery. Griffiths states.
“In road cars, this technology is prohibitively expensive, but it is being developed in racing,” he adds.
This could bring silicon carbide to everyday electric vehicles sooner than expected. The interest of the consumer market is continuously strengthening. Analysis by global accounting and consulting firm EY suggests that electric vehicles will become dominant on the roads in Europe by 2028, five years ahead of schedule.
Electric racing vehicles are becoming more and more popular at events here in the UK as well. Shirley Gibson is the championship coordinator for the fully electric Retro Rallycross and Electro Rallycross Championships. The latter launched in 2021.
Ms. Gibson helped lead the adoption of electric vehicles in British racing events.
“The move must be made and must be done now to ensure a more sustainable future,” he says.
“You know, I didn’t want to be too late to get this project off the ground in the UK.”
Explain that the short heats of around five minutes in rallycross events – a mix of rally and circuit racing – are perfect for electric cars, since they don’t need a long charge to compete.
Gibson fully supports the development of new EV racing vehicles and the involvement of famous teams and drivers to stimulate electric racing.
“It’s the future,” he says.
He adds that while some gasoline aficionados always complain about electric vehicles’ lack of exhaust noise, the visual spectacle remains electrifying.
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