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OK, AR1, tell us how electric engines would work for IndyCar UPDATE #2 Another reader writes,
Electric Vehicle: I personal don’t see it working. Maybe on flat land but here in the HILLS of PA and other mountain states it’s a no go. Second where will all the cost for recharging come from? A tax break? Don’t think so. So what benefit will it bring to those that drive at least 30, 40, 50 plus miles one way to work? Just another wasted project IMO.

Ethanol Time Bomb: Cost to produce way to high and once again the benefits from it are so low. I snowmobile and with 10 to 15% ethanol it’s not a good thing for the engine. Now take into account all the lawn & garden equipment, other 2 cycle engines. I have a 2 vehicles and I personal have seen my gas mileage drop.

It’s been reported many years ago that someone refined an engine that could get gas mileage that far exceeded 50 to 70 MPG but was cut down by the auto industry.

Just another way for greed to take over the people at a time when employment is at a all time high as is home foreclosures. Joe Steber, PA

Dear Joe, Currently electric cars are not for everyone. The Chevy Volt goes 40 miles before the battery is depleted and then the gasoline engine kicks off and turns a generator that charges the battery, so you can make it to work and back. Someday you should be able to charge at work as well. Over 85% of Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, so for most they will never burn an ounce of gasoline with the Volt going to and from work, only on long trips.

The Volt can drive for 40 miles on a single full electric charge of it’s battery pack. It is a known fact that the battery pack will be allowed to drain down from 80% to 30% before the gas-generator kicks in. Since the battery pack holds 16 KWH of energy, that means 8 KWH will get you 40 miles.

The cost of a KWH from the electric grid varies considerably depending on location and time of use. Usually, off-peak hours, from 9PM to 10AM will have the lowest rates from one’s electric utility provider. This will require a special meter that not all homes have.

The average retail price of electricity in the U.S. by state ranges from around 8 cents/KWH to 19 cents/KWH. If we use the average, the cost to recharge the Volt will be around $1 to go 40 miles. Clearly for 40 miles of driving at present gas and electric prices, there will be a very significant cost savings.

As for Ethanol, we could not agree more and have reported this many times. IndyCar and NASCAR are barking up the wrong tree on this one. Mark C.

01/08/11 If Randy Bernard’s vision truly has an eye on the future, might he rock the establishment with the creation of the worlds first Electric Vehicle Indy 500 during his tenure?  What might the ultra- future for the EV Indy 500 look like? Might KERS become the iPhone of the race car world with multiple apps for - power, sound, efficiency, etc? Who might the audience be and what if they had some control of the “sound” that they would hear on race day.  What if they could vote for the sound that they might want to hear – Ferrari V12, Turbo Cosworth or maybe Chevy V8 – there could be an app for that.

The challenge of the EV Indy 500 would be charging the batteries quickly enough. The battery exists today but storing enough power is the current issue as is replenishing the power quickly. During pit stops, instead of filling the tank full of Ethanol, you would slide out the depleted battery pack and slide in a fresh fully charged power unit. Rookie drivers would be in the back seat where the engine and gearbox once sat and their job would be to monitor in real time the power available, control the heat of the batteries, decide the power needs to win the race, and interact directly with the world wide smart phone audience.

Imagine what a true ‘green’ technology race track that caters to the mega trends  moving towards more sustainable power might be like. What if you could have a form of conductive charging for the battery – as you race?. Conductive charging is a no-wire charging pad that a car might drive over at night to get its re-charge. What if the cars in the EV Indy 500 could get its conductive charging from the actual race track surface, while the cars are in motion. What might the specialized asphalt final mix look like if it was to be magnetized? 

What if our ultra-future safety measures made the old metal Armco barriers desirable again? What if we could add reverse polarity between the cars and the crash barrier – does this mean that the race car would never hit the barrier?

If we are to have road hybrids that are efficient and affordable they need to go through an accelerated development program. There is no faster way to develop anything than to put it into competition. If racing is to continue to develop the road cars of the future might our reverse polarity crash barriers mean that accident damage on highways could be a thing of the past? The ultra-future race car and ace track design will be very different. Derek Daly & Paxton Waters.

01/08/11 A reader asks, Dear AR1, OK we get it, the automotive industry is moving to electric engines and I think you are absolutely correct, in the next 10 to 20 years you may not be able to buy a car powered by just an internal combustion engine.  But how would any race series work electric into the equation given the amount of horsepower we are talking about for race cars.  Dan Walker

Dear Dan, Glad you asked.  I will use IndyCar as an example since they have a new car coming out in 2012 and they totally blew it by not including an electric motor and battery onboard. The ship is sailing and they have been left at the dock.

There are a number of ways they could have done it.

1. Push-To-Pass Quite simply they could have gone with the same engine format they will have in 2012 but instead of using increased turbo boost for push-to-pass, they could have added an electric motor and battery to supplement the turbo engine when the driver wanted extra horsepower to pass.  In this scenario the driver would get the extra HP when he pushed the button, but when the battery was drained, that would be it.  He would have to manage his battery life and use the P2P button wisely.  This scenario would work for all race tracks.

2. Hybrid Much like F1 is doing with KERS, IndyCar could have come out with a hybrid solution, much like what the Toyota Prius uses.  However, this type of system charges the battery during braking and when you lift off the throttle, which would be great for road courses but would do nothing for you on their 100% throttle oval tracks. So for ovals the system would work as described in #1 above - for P2P only until the battery was drained.

IndyCar, NASCAR, and most other top race series got caught with their pants down by not including electric engines in the equation.
3. Quick Change Batteries IndyCar could have shown the world that quick change batteries might have a place in automobiles.  This option could also work in conjunction with #1 and #2 above.  Here the battery would have to be able to be lifted by one pit crew member and quickly installed in a race car during pitstops.  Could the battery be replaced as fast as the tires and fuel go in?  Not sure, maybe the pit stops would get longer, depending on how fast the quick change batteries could be swapped out.  Then strategy comes in.  A team might skip a battery change on one pit stop to gain track position.  A team might be allocated 3 or 4 spare batteries per race and have to manage their use just as they manage their allotted tires.

There may be more options, but what I present above could work and would have gotten the attention of all car manufacturers worldwide.  They would be knocking down Randy Bernard's door wanting to get in on a race series with engine technology that has a real connection to passenger cars and the future of the automobile, which will folks be electric in some way shape or form.  Like the Ford executive said yesterday at the CES show where they unveiled their all electric Ford Focus.  Electric cars are a 'game changer.'

The race series that can help car manufacturers show their customers how good their 'green' electric powered cars are will be the race series that dominates the racing world in the coming decades.  Mark Cipolloni

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