Advertisement

NASCAR Reveals EV Prototype In Chicago

a race car on a track
NASCAR Reveals EV Prototype In Chicago ABB
  • The EV prototype was developed in collaboration with NASCAR’s OEM partners – Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota – and was built by the NASCAR engineers responsible for the Next Gen car and the Garage 56 entry into the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  • The EV has been tested on track at Charlotte, Martinsville, and Hickory

  • The ABB NASCAR Electrification Innovation Partnership will explore high-performance electric racing and create strategic opportunities for electrification in the sport, including race vehicles, electrification infrastructure, and energy education.


Even though the ABB NASCAR EV Prototype was unveiled Saturday morning at the Chicago Street Course, don’t expect to see an electric car in the sanctioning body’s series lineup in the immediate future.

ADVERTISEMENT

Instead, the electric prototype is part of a bigger initiative known as NASCAR IMPACT, which involves NASCAR and the OEMs working together to develop alternatives to the current internal combustion engine and to determine what will be raced in the future. NASCAR’s goal is to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 and it believes ABB, a world leader in electrification and automation, can help it achieve that goal. The partnership between NASCAR and ABB was announced simultaneously with the unveiling of the EV prototype.

NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer John Probst said there were plans to demonstrate the EV prototype on multiple levels in different places and in different situations.

“I wouldn’t say we’ll never do a series,” Probst said. “I’m just saying that right now, I don’t want to create the expectation that the series is going to be announced for next year.

“OEMs put out prototype cars at car shows and judge the reaction from the fans and decide (which direction they want to go). For us, it’s very similar. It’s a way for us to work with them (OEMs) and learn where we want to be. From our perspective, the idea is to just be prepared for whatever the future holds.”

table
NASCAR

NASCAR is also looking at hybrid engines, which are used in IMSA, and hydrogen powered vehicles that are being developed and raced by Toyota. After the 2023 season ended, NASCAR executives traveled to Japan to examine the hydrogen engine under development.

“You’ll see us experiment with a lot of different powertrains (over the upcoming years),” Probst said. “There’s a long, long road ahead for the combustion engine, be it powered from sustainable fuel or hydrogen.”

Tyler Gibbs, TRD’s general manager in the United States, says the combustion with the hydrogen is “the interesting one for us in the sense that it probably gives the fans a very similar experience in that it generates noise.”

“At the same time, it has a carbon neutral result,” Gibbs noted.

a race car on a road
The electric prototype is part of a bigger initiative known as NASCAR IMPACT, which involves NASCAR and the OEMs working together to develop alternatives to the current internal combustion engine and to determine what will be raced in the future.NASCAR

NASCAR introduced its EV prototype, which has been under development for two years, the same weekend the NTT IndyCar Series hybrid system made its racing debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. IndyCar’s electronic propulsion system has been under development just shy of five years.

NASCAR Senior Engineer of Vehicle Systems and EV project manager C.J. Tobin said the 1,000 kilowatts electric crossover, all-wheel drive utility vehicle was primarily built for short tracks and road courses because of the regeneration of power.

“Those high braking events are what gives us the ability to run the car longer,” Tobin said. “It reverses the polarity of the motors. As you’re braking, you’re generating power, that power is feeding back into the battery.”

Even though the car has a flax fiber composite body, it uses numerous suspension and steering components found on today’s Cup cars.

“It’s a bolt on front clip to the center section,” Tobin said. “The center section looks almost exactly the same as our current Cup center section. The only thing different on the chassis is it doesn’t have a rear clip … because there’s no longer a fuel cell back there. It’s two motors in the rear.”

a race car with red and white stripes on a track
NASCAR is also looking at hybrid engines, which are used in IMSA, and hydrogen powered vehicles that are being developed and raced by Toyota.NASCAR

David Ragan, a former fulltime NASCAR Cup driver who now competes in selected races, tested the car at Martinsville, Charlotte, the Los Angeles Coliseum, and an undisclosed road course.

Ragan, who has driven race cars with internal combustion engines his entire career, said there were numerous adjustments he had to make when he tested the electric prototype. They included using a paddle shifter, driving a car with no gears, getting the car to roll through the corner because the brakes were so sensitive, and determining his location on the track due to no noise from an engine.

“Martinsville is a track where you do a lot off of feel and sound on the engine,” Ragan said. “Leaving the corner, when you blend up to the wall, you don’t always look to the right to see how close you are, you can almost hear it. The closer you get to the wall, that engine tune changes because of our exhaust coming out of the side of the race car bouncing off the wall. I didn’t have any of that (with the EV car).”

The EV prototype also allowed Ragan to hear things that he had only felt in his steering wheel and the “seat of your pants” throughout his career.

a race car on a track
Even though the car has a flax fiber composite body, it uses numerous suspension and steering components found on today’s Cup cars.NASCAR

“Mid-corner, I could hear the tires squealing, chattering, making noise where normally it’s hard to hear that because of the engine noise overpowering that,” Ragan explained.

“The throttle is more responsive than what we have now. There’s instant torque.”

Ragan noted the 1,000 horsepower the EV prototype produces couldn’t be used in the current Cup car because it would create rear wheel spin. In the speed department, the all-wheel drive EV prototype was within a half second of this year’s race speed at Martinsville.

The car’s acceleration and its deceleration were cited by Ragan as the biggest differences between the current Cup car and the EV prototype. Since it’s all-wheel drive, it accelerates more efficiently due to the torque distribution. He said some of the wheel slip that typically occurs at a short track disappeared because of the power being distributed to the front tires.

“I could be a lot more aggressive on getting to the throttle, and the car just responded more efficiently,” Ragan said. “That hard braking that you have at Martinsville … was just a lot different because the car slowed down so much more efficiently. The car slowing down with the help of the electric motor … would stop on a dime, very similar to having an ABS system in your street car.”

Ragan described the adjustability in the race car as “amazing.”

“There’s probably 15 buttons on the steering wheel,” Ragan said. “It looks like a Formula One steering wheel. You can adjust a lot of stuff. I don’t know what NASCAR will allow down the road. We really just scratched the surface on what this would look like three, four, five years down the road.”