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NASCAR Unveils First Electric Race Car Prototype in Chicago

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Filed under Automotive, EV News, Motorsports, Nascar, News

In a groundbreaking move, NASCAR has taken a step toward the future of motorsports by unveiling its first electric racecar in downtown Chicago. This innovative vehicle marks a departure from the traditional thunderous roar associated with NASCAR races, offering a hum instead of a roar when the command to start engines is given.

NASCAR’s partnership with Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and the electrification company ABB has resulted in a high-performance electric vehicle designed to gauge fan interest and promote electric racing as cool, fun, and accessible. Riley Nelson, NASCAR’s head of sustainability, emphasized the importance of representing electrification in racing.

The Associated Press got an exclusive look at the $1.5 million prototype, driven solely by semi-retired NASCAR driver David Ragan. Ragan highlighted the distinct differences in sound and smell, noting the absence of the overpowering engine noise and exhaust heat that typically dominate gasoline-powered cars. Instead, he experienced the unique sensation of hearing squealing tires and smelling brakes without his ears ringing after hundreds of laps.

Unlike traditional sports coupes, the new electric racecar is a crossover utility vehicle, boasting a massive rear wing for enhanced aerodynamics. It accelerates almost twice as fast as top gas-powered racecars and can stop almost immediately. However, its lap time at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia was slightly slower due to its heavier weight, which affects cornering speed. Ragan noted that he wasn’t pushing the prototype to its limits, as risk-taking is reserved for racing, not testing.

Eric Warren, head of global motorsports competition for General Motors, pointed out that more than half of avid NASCAR fans surveyed expressed increased interest in purchasing an electric vehicle if exposed to them through racing. Warren emphasized that racing serves as an excellent platform for discussing energy optimization and educating fans about electric vehicles.

NASCAR’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond electric racecars. The organization plans to introduce sustainable racing fuel, recycle at all events, and use 100% renewable electricity at its facilities and tracks by 2028. By 2035, NASCAR aims to achieve net-zero operating emissions. ABB, now NASCAR’s official electrification partner, will install electric-vehicle charging stations at NASCAR tracks, making them accessible to both racegoers and the general public.

The electric racecar is part of a broader sustainability plan that includes exploring hydrogen-powered cars. NASCAR’s sports car series, IMSA, switched to hybrid engines in 2023, and IndyCar plans to debut hybrid engines this weekend in Ohio. Formula 1 will introduce sustainable fuel in all cars starting in 2026.

Ford Performance has also contributed to the electric revolution by building eight cutting-edge electric demonstration vehicles in four years. Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, noted that as more customers purchase electric vehicles, a growing number of fans will be interested in watching full electric racing.

The unveiling event saw enthusiastic reactions from fans, including 16-year-old Dean Radejewski of Chicago, who praised NASCAR’s move toward electric vehicles as a step into the newer age. He expressed hope that electric racing would be more reliable and safer. The possibility of a NASCAR EV series intrigued him, as it would mean more racing to watch.

NASCAR’s shift to electric racing not only addresses environmental concerns but also aims to enhance the fan experience. John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief racing development officer, mentioned the potential for reinventing the fan experience with options like a DJ at events.

As NASCAR continues to innovate and embrace sustainability, it sets the stage for a future where electric vehicles play a central role in motorsports, inspiring a new generation of fans and engineers.

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