Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Is the Formula E being extravagent with two electric race cars per driver?

Is Formula E's plan to have two cars per driver a super-extravagence?  This is a question raised in comments on a posting on another site (see link below) reporting on the Formula E 2014 season calendar.

Because the Formula E cars have battery packs that support only 15-20 minutes of racing, and the Formula E race is supposed to last much longer (90 minutes?), each driver will race until the pack poops out, then switch cars.  Presumably the pooped-out car will be fast charged in the pit lane so the driver can switch back, because the way I calculate it they'll need 4 phases of racing to hold a full 90 minute long race.  I covered this in more detail in an earlier post.

It does mean the Formula E organizers are building 42 race cars to have two cars for each of the 20 drivers that will be in the series.  Theoretically it would be possible for Forumla E to have built only 22 cars.  But that would leave the problem of how to quickly recharge the battery pack, because it wouldn't be much of a race not to say much of a testament to EV's for each car to pause for 20 minutes every 20 minutes for a quick charge.

One of the commentators suggest - fast swapping battery packs.  Other commentators following that one talked about whether that would be safe or whether there would be arcing at the connectors, with fatal consequences, while even others point to the capabilities of the Better Place fast pack swapping mechanism.

Consider that a fast battery pack swap would be exactly the same as when a gas powered race car pulls into the pit to refuel the gas tank.

What those commentators do not know about is fast battery swapping that was used by an earlier electric race car series, that predated the Better Place battery swapping system by nearly a decade.

This occurred in the 90's in an electric race car series called, if memory serves me right, Formula Lightning.  My reference material is thousands of miles away, and I cannot double check the name of the series.  What I do know is that electric racing pioneers like Ely Schless and Bob Schneveiss developed electric race cars with fast swap battery packs.  Ely claims he did it first, then everyone else followed his design, but I wasn't there in person and don't know this for sure.

In any case, what I was told is that the car would pull into the pit, a pit crew with some kind of floor jack cargo mover dohickey would go to each side of the race car, undo the (simple but high powered) connectors on the battery pack, scoot the pack out of the way, roll a new pack in place, redo the power connections, and it would take something like a minute or two, and away the car goes.  In the meantime the pit crew connects the depleted pack to a fast charger.

The battery pack on these cars was two long boxes containing Trojan flooded lead acid batteries, located on both sides of the car, between the wheels.  Yes, lead acid.  Flooded lead acid.  This was the 90's.  My how far we've come in just a few years.

It worked fine with simple but effective power connectors.  No fatal arcing etc, and doesn't even rely on something fancy schmancy like the Better Place robotic system.  By the way there is a different electric car racing series that may be starting in 2014, who (the last time I talked with them) was planning to use the Better Place fast swap system.  But since then Better Place has run into seriously bad problems, and I also haven't heard from the founder of that race series for awhile.

A few minutes ago I read a news article saying that Amprius has developed a much higher density battery pack system.  Higher energy density will mean a race car with a 40 minute or more run time rather than 20 minute run time.  Maybe.  A lot will depend on whether the technology from Amprius would support the power levels required for a race car, and whether it is safe for fast charging.

If it can do both, this would radically change the characteristics of all forms of electric racing.  For example the electric motorcycle racing has been limited to 22-25 mile long races, while AMA superbike races run for 55-60 miles.  The Amprius batteries offer enough more energy to support a full length electric motorcycle race.

Maybe the Formula E plan for two cars per driver is excessively extravagant.  However, it's my understanding that Pro racing teams show up with extra vehicles anyway - for example to resurrect crashed vehicles from spare parts on backup cars.  At the same time it's clear that enough high end battery advances are being developed that shortly enough we'll have a range of higher energy density choices for electric race vehicles.  In a few years we may be seeing full length electric races, with no need for things like swapping cars or swapping battery packs.

Source: http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2013/05/formula-e-series-targets-reverse-calendar-for-debut-season-in-2014/

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Formula E adds Bangkok as 9th city in proposed 2014 season

In addition to announcing its new partnership with Renault, the Formula E has announced Bangkok Thailand as the 9th city for the Formula E 2014 season.  Their 2014 season of electric car racing is envisioned to include 10 cities around the world, and two months ago had announced a list of 8 candidate cities.   That list is now 9 cities with the addition of Bangkok.

In September 2013, Formula E Holdings is due to present the list of candidate cities to the FIA for approval of the 2014 Formula E season.

"We are delighted to be here in Bangkok today and are very thankful to the Thai authorities for their enthusiastic welcome," said Alejandro Agag. "We have been very impressed with Thailand's commitment to cleaner energy and sustainable motoring, as well as their rising motorsport programme, and a Formula E race through this amazing city would provide a great spectacle together with a considerable boost to tourism."

Pol.Maj.Gen Lattasanya Piansomparn said: "In 2012, total production, local sales, and exports of cars, reached new highs, close to 2.5 million cars and breaking a record that had stood for more than 50 years. The heavily promoted Thai car industry was on the way to becoming one of the top 10 car producers in the world. The government policy is to force Thailand as the ASEAN hub of automotive production and announce a new master plan for the automotive industry from 2012 to 2016, formulating development strategies for sustainable growth of the industry, especially the global trends focusing on clean energy.

"This reflects the vision of Thailand's automotive industry and if Thailand is one of the cities' selected to host the FIA Formula E Championship, it will create a great opportunity for the future automotive industry cooperation and Formula E production base in Thailand. Formula E now is the latest innovation and technology of automotive industry. The future automotive trend is electric energy. Moreover, the best benefits for Thailand are; the cutting edge of technology, increased employment opportunities and an increase in labour skills at an international standard."

Mr. Chiruit Israngkun Na Ayuthaya added: "The FIA Formula E Championship in Bangkok city will help economic growth (GDP) and generate tourism revenue for the country, especially MICE industry and motor sports economic activities."

Renault and Spark Racing Technologies team up for Formula E electric race car

In April, Renault teased us with an image talking about the marriage of electric of electric vehicles and Formula 1 motorsports.  It seemed impossible that it meant Renault would team up with the Formula E series, especially as they seemed to already have partnerships lined up with Dallara and McLaren.  It made more sense when they unveiled a Twizy outfitted with a Formula 1 KERS system as a kind of publicity stunt.  But a new announcement from Renault says that, indeed, they are teaming up with Spark Racing Technologies, the technology arm of the Formula E. 

Or, as they put it: "Renault SAS, leader of Electric Vehicle and expert in motorsport, has signed on as official Technical Partner of Spark Racing Technology to supply the Formula E cars to be entered in the FIA Formula E Championship."

Renault not only is already involved with Formula 1 racing, but has a range of electric cars it manufactures.

The planned 42 Formula E single-seaters for the 2014 season will be named "Spark-Renault". 

They released a rendering of the car (shown above) as well, which matches the sketch released a couple months ago.

"Renault has demonstrated a unique commitment to zero-emission mobility, with a range of four cars available for sale. Renault in Europe, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance worldwide, has gained a position of EV sales leader. Formula E is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the excellence and the reliability of our EV solutions," said Philippe Klein, Executive Vice President, Corporate Planning, Product Planning & Programs of Renault Group. "We believe that motorsport is an efficient manner to promote the efficiency of new technologies, and we're eager to use that single-seater in FIA Formula E championship to show our technology is the best."

"Renault and Formula E both share the same commitment to innovative technology and sustainable motoring and we're delighted to welcome them to the Championship as a Founding Partner," said Alejandro Agag, CEO of Championship promoter Formula E Holdings. "Not only is Renault one of the world's leading car manufacturers, with a very successful motorsport pedigree, it is also a pioneer for electric vehicles being the first full-range car manufacturer to market zero-emission vehicles. To have a manufacturer of this caliber onboard is a great testament to the growing appeal of the FIA Formula E Championship."

"Spark Racing Technology is extremely proud to have a new major quality player in motorsport, Renault," said Frédéric Vasseur, CEO of Spark Racing Technology. "Their record and involvement in high level motorsport speaks for the brand. In addition, Renault has always been at the forefront of innovation and having their expertise and know-how is invaluable at such a key moment in the creation of the FIA Formula E World Championship. This partnership with Renault is a new corner stone in a building harmoniously taking shape at all levels."

"Renault's expertise in electric powertrain design and integration acquired both in production E.V. and in Formula 1 makes Renault Sport a natural partner for Spark in this exciting Formula E project," said Patrice Ratti, Managing Director of Renault Sport Technologies. "Engineers from Renault Sport F1 and Renault Sport Technologies will collaborate with Spark Racing Technology team to optimize the electric and electronic layout and performance of the powertrain. Our experience will be particularly valuable to ensure the safety and reliability of the car."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mitsubishi enters Pikes Peak with two electric race cars, and intention to win outright

Mitsubishi has just announced entry into the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with two all-new MiEV Evolution II electric race cars.  The team is also expressing an intention to win outright.

I've written up details here :- http://www.torquenews.com/1075/pikes-peak-electric-racing-heating-two-entries-mitsubishi

For data on the Toyota entry see :- http://www.electricracenews.com/2013/05/toyota-returning-to-pikes-peak-with.html

For data on the Latvian entry see :- http://www.electricracenews.com/2013/05/a-look-at-driveeos-pikes-peak.html

All three entries are race cars with 400 kilowatt drive trains, and in each case the teams say they're looking to win outright.  

2013 MiEV Evolution II Design Highlights
  • Improved lower center of gravity due to redesigned lithium-ion battery placement
  • Improved power output/performance from four-motor (two front/two rear) 4WD drivetrain with MMC's Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) integrated vehicle dynamics control system
  • Active Yaw Control (AYC) to optimally control yaw for improved high-speed cornering
  • Active Stability Control (ASC) for improved vehicle dynamics and control by automatically managing brake force to one or more wheels as well as motor output
  • Redesigned Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
2013 MiEV Evolution II Specifications
Length x Width x Height (in.)191.7 x 74.8 x 54.7
(Made by Meidensha)
Configuration4 (2 front, 2 rear)
Maximum Output (kW)400 (100kW x 4 motors)
(Made by LEJ)
Maximum Capacity (kWh)50
ChassisSpecially-designed tube frame
Tires (made by Dunlop)260/660-18
Driver Profiles
Hiroshi Masuoka
Hiroshi Masuoka began his Dakar Rally campaign in 1987 and became the first Japanese driver to post consecutive overall victories in the event when he won in 2002 and 2003.
Currently, Masuoka works at Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) where his many duties include vehicle development, training MMC test drivers, and running test drive sessions and other events both in Japan and overseas.
"We are able to tackle Pikes Peak a second time thanks to the support of our many partner companies. We were able to come up with a new and improved MiEV Evolution II based on the precious data and know-how we gained from last year's race. We welcome Greg Tracy as our teammate. With his wealth of motorsport experience, we will give it our all for a one-two finish. Thank you for your continued support!," says Masuoka.
Greg Tracy
A six-time PPIHC overall motorcycle champion, Tracy placed second overall in motorcycles in 2012.
Tracy brings a wealth of racing experience not only in motorcycles but four-wheeled vehicles as well, and is also a professional stunt driver. As a Hot Wheels Team Green Driver, he achieved the Guinness World Record for completing the Double Loop Dare at XGames in 2012.
"I'm excited to compete here with the MiEV Evolution II. I will do my best, along with my teammates, to make an electric vehicle the champ for the first time ever," says Tracy

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mission Motors re-entering electric motorcycle field, how will they stack up?

Mission Motors appears to be coming back into the business of building high performance electric motorcycles.  They of course started out in that business, but backed away from it when the company nearly died a few years ago.  There was a change of CEO at the time, and a change of strategy. 

The new strategy was to focus on making EV drive train components to sell to OEM's.  Along the way they developed software to help with designing electric vehicles, and EV dynamics, that tracked performance plotting it on a 3D map. 

The other day the company tweeted a link to a website containing solely the above image.  This is clearly teasing us with a new electric motorcycle that will be launched on June 3.

All the while they we working on drive train components to sell to others, the engineers were using an electric motorcycle (the Mission R) as a test bed.  The purpose they explained to me several times is that electric motorcycles have strong constraints on power and weight and size.  Therefore, to successfully build a motorcycle with near-MotoGP performance (which they did) the components had to have a very high power to weight ratio.

Their claims are interesting - however.  To build the highest performing street legal electric vehicle ever made means beating out some strong contenders.  Some of whom are in production already, and could plausibly have higher performance than whatever it is Mission will be launching in June.

In my writeup elsewhere I focused on Lightning Motorcycles as the primary contender, but let's run down the list of possibilities, and why I settled on Lightning.

Tesla Model S: Let's dispense with this one right away.  Carefully reading the statement they make, "street legal electric vehicle" includes 4-wheelers, right?  The Model S has a top speed of 130 miles/hr and 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds.  That's very impressive, but it'll be easy for Mission to beat that.  The Mission R beat that in 2011, I believe.

Rimac Concept One: This is probably not a production car so shouldn't be considered?  The specifications page doesn't list a top speed, but says 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

Lightning Motorcycles: Lightning is in production right now, I haven't checked lately but the sales volume so far is probably still under 5 bikes.  For some people that's enough to say it's a production electric motorcycle.  The bike that's in production is the race bike.  We saw it in race conditions last year, and for example at the Laguna Seca TTXGP/e-Power event last July they nearly beat the laptime record held by Mission Motors.  At the 2011 Laguna Seca event Steve Rapp rode the Mission R, setting a fantastic lap speed record, while beating both Lightning and MotoCzysz pretty badly.  For the 2012 event Lightning showed a strong improvement, but did not beat Rapps lap speed from 2011.

Brammo Empulse RR: This bike is definitely not in production so shouldn't be considered in relation to the claims Mission is making about their upcoming bike.  The RR instead is Brammo's prototype bike.  With that bike Steve Atlas and Eric Bostrom were hitting 170 miles/hr at Daytona last fall, and they showed massive improvements over the 2012 season.  I didn't get to see them at the Sonoma Raceway event last weekend but I hear they made a respectable showing within the pack of 600cc gas powered superbikes.

2013 MotoCzysz e1pc: Ditto what I just said about the Empulse RR.  Not in production, and showing lots of improvements, including hitting the 100 miles/hr lap speed on the Isle of Man in 2012.

As I see it - the way to validate Mission's claim is to get their bike into a race against these other bikes.  Yes, in 2011 the Mission R with Steve Rapp riding beat Lightning and MotoCzysz.  But both them and Brammo have moved a long long ways forward since then.  Has Mission also moved forward?  We won't know until the bikes can be put into a race against each other, eh?

Financial Times' take on the Formula E electric racing series.

A nice video from the Financial Times about the Formula E.  Who'd'a'thunk that the Financial Times would have someone covering Formula 1 racing?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Toyota returning to Pikes Peak with significanly more powerful EV P002 electric race car

Toyota Motorsports Group is returning to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with the 2013 EV P002.  The new version of the car has significantly higher power, and the team is seeking to hold on to their record in the face of strong competition.

The 2013 version sports an upgraded drive train, and prior to the race Toyota will head to North Carolina for track testing and suspension tuning. The upgraded drive train features twin axial flux electric motors, each with their own AC inverter, and 400 kilowatts maximum power (533 horsepower), and 1200 Nm maximum torque.  This is up from the 2012 version which had a 350 kilowatt output (approx 470 horsepower), and a maximum torque of 900 Nm.

Also new for 2013 is the hiring of Rod Millen to drive the car. He is a multi-time winner of the Pikes Peak race, and is also the father of Rhys Millen who won outright in 2012.

Claudia Brasse, TMG Executive Coordinator Strategic EV Development: “We are very excited to return to Pikes Peak alongside our TOYOTA colleagues from the United States. The TMG EV P002 has a perfect history of three records from three attempts, none of which have been beaten, so we have high standards to maintain. The improvements we have made to the powertrain are expected to deliver even higher performance levels, which should again confirm the TMG EV P002 as the standard bearer for electric race cars. But as well as the electric powertrain itself, we are successfully innovating in the area of charging infrastructure. It is easy to take this for granted when you are working in a well-supplied laboratory or workshop. But motorsport doesn’t always take place in such an environment; you have to deal with varying levels of infrastructure and uncertainty regarding the power grid. The potential for off-board battery-to-battery charging technology is great, particularly in the world of motorsport where infrastructure limitations will increasingly become a source of frustration for electric motorsport. We have a flexible solution which can be adapted for different types of race and passenger car. We look forward to again demonstrating both aspects of our EV technology at Pikes Peak.”

See also:  http://www.torquenews.com/1075/toyota-upgrades-ev-p002-electric-race-car-hot-electric-competition-pikes-peak

TMG EV P002 Technical Specifications
Top Speed230 km/h
Maximum Torque1200Nm
Maximum Power400kW
Maximum Revs6000rpm
Electric Motor2 axial flux
Inverter2 x TMG inverters
Gear Ratio2.5
TransmissionSingle-reduction gearing
BatteryLithium ceramic
Battery Capacity42 kWh
Charging TechnologyOff-board DC charging

TMG DC Quick Charger Specifications
AC Grid Connection / Input
Grid Connection400 V AC CEE 16 A
Nominal input power6.6kW
DC Vehicle Connection
Output voltage400 VDC
Maximum DC output power25kW
Battery42 kWh, lithium ion
Technology partnerSchneider Electric (EVlink™)
Operating temperature0 to 40°C
Storage temperature-30 to 60°C
ProtectionShort-circuit protection, output fuse, over-current and over-voltage protection, under-voltage shutdown

Thursday, May 2, 2013

2013 REFUEL Race open to entries, on for June 30, Laguna Seca

The Refuel Races are returning to Laguna Seca for the 5th year.  I've covered that event for 3 out of the 4 years it has existed, and the 2012 race was awesome if only because of the sheer number of electric vehicles on the track at one time.  The electric car portion in 2012 had over 30 entrants, 12+ of which were either Tesla Roadsters or Tesla Model S's.  It was simply amazing watching an electric car race where there was a serious traffic jam problem because of the number of cars on the track at the same time.

I believe it was Brian Hall (a long time electric race vehicle builder) who said to me, watching this spectacle, that it was almost certainly the largest number ever of high performance electric vehicles racing on a track at the same time.

For the 2013 event, signups are now open.  It costs a bit of money to participate, and the amount is a fraction of what it would cost for a regular track day.  The total number of entrants per class is being limited. 

The company is encouraging anybody with an electric car to enter, and the 2011 and 2012 events had a number of Nissan Leaf owners participating. 

A look at DriveEO's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb electric car entry

We now have some information on one of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb entries, eO, thanks to a blog post describing their goals and electric race car.  The car is pictured here and the Audi sign in the background may well have something to do with why this car looks like the Audi R-18's that have been running in the World Endurance Cup.  The team is new to the Pikes Peak race, but have built electric cars for a couple off-road races.

By saying this I suspect they are looking to win the race outright: "So far no electric car has won the event outright but they are becoming a force to be reckoned with. "

Describing the car, they say:  "Utilising years of experience in motorsport engineering, eO has designed a tubular spaceframe prototype with a bought-in carbon fibre body kit. The PP01 chassis features an innovative 400 kW all-wheel electric drive architecture which makes it a worthy contender."

“We know our technology is capable of breaking the current Pikes Peak record,” says eO chief engineer Andris Dambis, “but there is an incredibly tight field battling it out this year. We therefore acknowledge the unpredictable nature of the event but nevertheless aim to showcase previously unseen electric vehicle capabilities. That is the spirit at eO.”

The team is planning to do extensive testing in May before shipping the car to Colorado for the race.  They are located in Latvia.

Source: driveeo.com

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MotoCzysz uses Dow Kokam cells for 2013 battery packs

MotoCzysz released today a little bit more information about their 2013 bikes.  On Monday the team announced the lineup of their 2013 team, and committed to both the TTZERO and eRoadRacing events in North America.

For 2013 they are continuing their battery partnership with Dow Kokam. After a first test session, the team says "amazing results confirmed that the Czysz crew has built the best handling and most energy dense MotoCzysz e1pc to date." 

The new battery pack gives 20% more energy on-board, with no more weight.  That will give them a performance advantage for sure.  They also cite new performance technology in the form of "2D (2 dimensional) triple clamps, offering its pilots amazing front end grip and control."