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EVs head for the clouds

Electric racer: Mitsubishi’s Pikes Peak contender employs production iMiEV drivetrain components, but with two extra motors and much more power.

Mitsubishi reveals i-MiEV racer as electric cars tackle famed Pikes Peak hillclimb

Mitsubishi logo21 May 2012

THE electric car industry will use the famed Pikes Peak hillclimb in the United States on July 8 to promote the performance as well as environmental credentials of EVs.

Mitsubishi and Toyota have each entered factory-built machines for this year’s ‘Race to the Clouds’ while seven-time winner Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima – who is also chief commissioner of the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles – believes he can win the event outright this year in an EV.

EV competitors hope to gain an advantage over their more powerful internal-combustion-engined rivals, which lose power over the torturous 20km course as it climbs to an oxygen-starved altitude of 2862 metres in the Colorado mountains.

Mitsubishi Motor Corp last week unveiled its contender – a purpose-built single-seater using production i-MiEV drivetrain components ‘hotted up’ for extra performance – to be driven by two-time Dakar Rally winner Hiroshi Masuoka.

The mostly carbon-fibre i-MiEV Evolution racer has a tubular chassis, a much wider carbon-fibre body than the production car, an electric motor driving the front wheels, two motors (rather than the standard one) driving the rear wheels and an upgraded 35kWh lithium-ion battery pack over the production i-MiEV’s 16kWh pack.

MMC has also entered a lightly modified production i-MiEV with standard rear-wheel-drive, to be driven by off-road racer Beccy Gordon, the sister of NASCAR star Robby Gordon.

 center imageFrom top: Seven-time winner Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima Tajima Motor Corp entry Mitsubishi i-MiEV Toyota TMG EV P001.

Toyota’s entry is the TMG EV P001 that last August shattered the EV lap record at the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany with a time of 7m47.8s, about one minute slower than a similar car built to race at Le Mans and powered by a 2.8-litre V8 engine.

Built by Toyota Motorsport GmbH, the same company that ran Toyota’s Formula One team from 2002 to 2009, built the electric vehicle based on a British Radical chassis, but with two electric motors with a combined output of 800Nm of torque. It will be driven by rally driver Fumio Nutahara.

Tajima-san is a legend of the Pikes Peak event and last year broke the magic 10-minute barrier at the historic event driving a highly modified factory-backed Suzuki SX4.

This year he will drive a new all-wheel-drive vehicle carrying his own name, with a battery pack provided by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and suspension components provided by Australian company King Springs.

The Japanese driver, who will turn 62 just before this year’s event, has a vast automotive enterprise at home including Porsche, Peugeot, Citroen and Suzuki dealerships, and is a strong promoter of alternative energy and electric cars through the Tokyo-based Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles, which has a New Zealand branch.

“These days, environmental changes like global warming are becoming a serious matter for us” he told eMotorsportNews last month. “In order to create a better environment for our children and the younger generation, we need to take action now.

“We hope to send the message through this project that the uptake of electric vehicles will help solve many environmental problems.

“This race will enter a new era as the course will be all tarmac this year. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is held in a beautiful national park and we believe that the message from us as a defending champion will have significant meaning this year.

“The merits of electric vehicles are not only their low levels of pollution and harm to the environment. There is almost no performance decrease due to the drop in air pressure and oxygen compared with internal combustion engines, and we believe that this feature will be a huge advantage at the altitude of Pikes Peak.

“Japan has the highest level of technology development in electric and hybrid cars, so the switch to an electric vehicle has been welcomed with huge excitement and expectation.”

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