“Motorsports 2.0” event brings racing, automotive and energy systems experts together to lay groundwork for electric vehicle series
(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., October 20, 2011) Auto racing is about the thrill of competition, about who can coax the best performance out of finely-tuned race machines. A proposed new racing series aims to complement internal combustion engine racing traditions with the advanced technologies quickly emerging in electric vehicles (EVs). With emerging battery technology, EVs can outperform traditional cars in torque, speed and handling - on the track or on the highway.
In early October, the Energy Systems Network (ESN) brought together an ‘all-star’ collection of motorsports teams, sanctioning bodies, engineering and design firms, Fortune 500 sponsors and EV pioneers to explore an electric vehicle (EV) racing series that could take the track within the next three years. The “Motorsports 2.0” EV Racing Design Summit was hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and sponsored by Duke Energy, Siemens, Eaton Corporation, Remy International, and Verizon.
Over the course of three days, the group participated in a series of brainstorming and working sessions aimed at several key goals: creating specifications for an all-electric record-setting racecar, developing design plans for the technical infrastructure required to support fully electric race vehicles, and drafting preliminary business and marketing plans for the EV racing series.
The EV racing initiative is spearheaded by ESN, the non-profit, industry-driven initiative focused on clean technologies and energy innovation. ESN also manages Project Plug-IN, among the nation’s largest deployment projects for plug-in electric vehicles and ‘smart grid’ technologies based in Central Indiana. According to ESN CEO Paul Mitchell, the racing series serves a complementary purpose in speeding deployment of EVs.
“Race fans are obviously enthusiasts and early adopters of the latest automotive technologies,” Mitchell said.
John Waters, President of Waters & Associates, who assisted in facilitating and coordinating the event, and a previous member of the General Motors EV1 team in Indiana agreed, “There’s no better way to promote the unique capabilities of emerging electric automotive technology than by demonstrating EV power and durability on the race track. It’s not about hugging trees but embracing speed and performance.”
EV racing will also serve a valuable purpose in developing and validating new technologies for the emerging electric vehicle sector. A symbiotic relationship has long existed between motorsports and the automotive industry, but has become less relevant in recent years.
In addition to vehicle design, the Motorsports 2.0 Summit also focused on the infrastructure needed for EV racing. “EV motorsports will foster innovation in vehicle technology, but it will also provide a development platform and proving ground for future EV charging technologies,” said Mike Rowand of Duke Energy. “The charging systems that power electric vehicles on the race track may ultimately power consumer vehicles.”
Beyond this potential role as a high-performance R&D lab, backers believe that an EV racing series would promote the vehicles to a wider audience, creating a ‘pull through’ market.
“Racing fans love competition – whether its IndyCar, American LeMans Series, or go-karts,” said Scot Elkins, COO of the American LeMans Series and the International Motor Sports Association, and a participant at Motorsports 2.0. “If they see electric vehicles putting on a good race, they’ll gravitate to it, learn all about the cars – and become consumers and enthusiasts.”
The EV racing partnership will combine expertise across electric propulsion, infrastructure, renewable energy, IT, and motorsports. Within a two-and-a-half year timeframe, it will focus on aligning the strategic technology development needs of the automotive, clean energy and IT industries with the future of racing, while also attracting a new generation of spectators and sponsors with an exciting and carbon-free racing experience.
Despite the aggressive timeline, participants at the Motorsports 2.0 Summit are optimistic about the prospects for the series.
“This Summit used a world-class process to jump-start an EV series,” said Richard Parry-Jones, former Chief Technical Officer of Ford Motor Company and head of the UK Automotive Council. “It brought all the right people together – we accomplished more in three days than most efforts like this do in a year.”
“Right now, we’re using a 20th century fuel for a sport with 21st century ambitions,” added Chelsea Sexton, electric vehicle advocate made famous in the movie, “Who Killed the Electric Car.” “Electrified motorsports will happen – the only questions are when and how.”
Participants in the Motorsports 2.0 EV Racing Design Summit included IndyCar, American LeMans, Bright Automotive, CCS Services, the Art Center College of Design, Delphi, Dallara, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Fuzion Training, Remy International, Duke Energy, Google, Tabu Design, Siemens Energy, Verizon Wireless, USAC Racing, Eaton Corporation, Penske Technology, Ball State University Center for Media Design, RPJ Consulting, , Ice Miller, Living City Block, HVM Racing, Stanford University, Waters & Associates and the Lightning Rod Foundation.
These and other partners are collaborating on a multi-phased approach, starting at the Motorsports 2.0 Design Summit. Discussions have continued since the Summit on October 4-6, focusing on continued technical and business planning and the logistics of staging EV racing demonstrations within the next year, towards the ultimate goal of launching a full-fledged EV racing series in the next 2-3 years.
“It’s gratifying to see such engagement and enthusiasm across the racing and energy ‘ecosystems’ for this project, kicking off the process here at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Mitchell noted.
“Indianapolis is building a reputation as the electric car capitol of the U.S., and we’re already the racing capitol of the world,” he finished. “It makes perfect sense to bring the two together as a means to advance and demonstrate the performance of these cars, which is improving by leaps and bounds.”
About Energy Systems Network: The Energy Systems Network (ESN) is an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. It is a non-profit industry-driven economic organization focused on the development of the energy technology “cleantech” sector. ESN provides project development and coordination for joint ventures and cooperative partnerships between network members to bring new energy technologies to market. ESN partners include a wide range of Fortune 500 firms, emerging technology companies, and research and educational institutions with expertise in advanced technology vehicles, distributed power generation, advanced biofuels, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.