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Strategic Recovery Institute develops electric off-road racing vehicle


February 16, 2013

SRI EV1 e-racer

SRI EV1 e-racer

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One thousand miles of treacherous open desert, 750 lb ft of torque at zero rpm and a top speed of 125 mph; that’s what's in store for the drivers of the EV1 electric off-road racer. Not exactly your father’s Prius, this vehicle dedicated to proving the legitimacy of "green racing" is the brain child of the Strategic Recovery Institute (SRI): a California-based non-profit group focusing on sustainable design.

The motivation to build a right proper e-racer is not new. E-road racers have existed for years, however in the theater of the off-road, few manufacturers have accepted the challenge. Although SRI’s motives appear to be altruistic, the actual inspiration for the racer came from one U.S. Army Lt. Gen James Pillsbury (Ret). He threw down the off-road gauntlet in 2011 asking teams to “Design, build and race an all-electric car in the 2012 SCORE Baja 1000.” Why would a retired army general concern himself with a green powered racer? Well it seems the U.S. military’s fuel bill for foreign theater operations comes in at roughly $400/gallon. That’s not a typo. The U.S. military can no longer afford the actual cost of fueling petrol powered vehicles abroad, and thus sent out word to private contractors to build and race full-sized, all-electric, off-road vehicles in an effort to demonstrate superior performance, reliability and cost savings. The winner would then have the opportunity to score a lucrative e-vehicle contract for various personnel requirements and support needs.

Teaming with EV West and Strategic Racing Designs, SRI started the EV1 project in February 2012 following its victory in the 2011 Baja 1000 in class 5-1600. Codenamed the "SRI EV1" the racer’s "engine" is comprised of a 400 kW, 2000 Ah system, powered by two NetGain Motors 69 cell lithium ion battery packs. Each power-pack provides the needed go-juice to power up two Warp 9” DC electric motors via Evenetics Soliton 1 Controllers & 2 Chennic DC/DC Converters vertically stacked and connected via a 2-inch carbon fiber belt. In real world statistics this translates into 535 hp and 750 lb. ft. of torque. Impressive yes, but the 4900 lb. weight associated with those battery packs carries a hefty weight-to-power pricetag. In the event one pack or motor fails, as is often the case in racing, the other pack and motor jump in to power the racer. Power is manipulated via a 4 speed sequential Mendeola S4D transmission.

DC power drives the GPS, VHF radio, lights, cooling fans, water pump, seat adjustment, Racepac, horn and intercom from a small group of four CALBs connected in series just forward of the center console. Total energy of the two battery packs is 82 kWh – enough energy to power the average home for a week. The combined weight of the dual power packs is 1950 lbs, porking up the vehicle’s weight (race ready) to a hefty hefty 5250 lbs. I’m not going to say its fat, but when it sits around the house … it sits around the house!

In watching the EV1 video (below) the first sensory issue is with the utter lack of sound. Tires chirp under protest as the front end attempts to leave the ground from the copious amounts of electric torque, all under non-existent exhaust notes. Instead the electrical whine of not one but two race-bred generators perforates the desert.

With a reported 60 mile range under normal race conditions (a figure that the designers are working to improve through gearing tweaks) and a top speed of 125 mph, the EV1 has a five hour recharge time at 240 V. Which begs the obvious question: where does one find a recharging station in the midst of the Baja?

To answer the "refueling" question, SRI has developed a trailer mounted and solar charging system. This mobile system achieves a five hour full recharge for both battery packs during races via a Perkins Diesel generator. When race ready recharging is not required, a solar system can be drawn upon to provide battery power.

Team SRI plans to compete in the SCORE San Felipe 250 in March and the NOORA Mexican 1000 in April.

Source: SRI

About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie

its painfully obvious the only way to bring electricity prices down NOW is with nuclear and coal. the quicker we get off petroleum fuels the quicker the feedback loop of private money starts funding electric and wind. so instead of coal and nuclear being solar and winds enemy......it should be wind and solars goal to get us OFF oil for transport fuel. if supporting coal and nuclear helps accomplish this, solar and wind would be better of supporting coal and nuclear.

hard sell though of course.


How many MPG when recharging via the diesel generator? SRV EV1 runs on diesel, coal, uranium. Solar panels are pure PR for an off-road dragster that eats a household's weekly worth in less than 1 hour!

None the less, people will buy performance at any cost and if electric out-performs petroleum then we have a winner.

$400/gallon...and the wars are fought right at the source? Go SRV!


How is it that they plan on competing in a 250 and 1000 mile race when the range is only 60-100 miles per charge w/ a multi-hour recharge time?


Odd. Two drive wheels, 2 electric motors, but they chose to retain the diff/transmission/reduction etc. Looks like they just bolted on the electrics where they pulled off the petrol from. Junk that wastage, and they'll probably get 100kg+ weight savings, improve drive conditions, 10%+ better range/efficiency (more if they're smart enough to shut off the unnecessary motor when appropriate - like the inside one when cornering)


I expect they will swap batteries during the race, but will need much planning to have charged batteries along the route at the correct points.

I think electricity will be the fuel of the future for vehicles when batteries have improved and we have ample renewable, nuclear or fusion power supplies. I will be watching the IOM TT race where each year the electric bikes are improving their average speed by about 6mph. There will be a time (I predict about 2025) when electric rules. At Pikes Peak it may even be within a couple of years.

Stephen Colbourne

You would hope that the designers at the very least considered "fast swap" battery pack modules to keep at least one pack charging ready for when the 1st one craps out. If not, why not? Parking your racer on a trailer for 5 hours - not counting locating the trailer, loading, hookup, time to get back off and return to the track - seems stupid. I cannot see the military wanting their scout vehicles off-line for 5-6 hours at a time.

The Skud

@Stephen Colbourne

Yeah, the "fast-swap" you mention seems to be the only viable alternative for the racing environment. But from the looks of the vehicle and the fact that they have a charging trailer, I don't think they went that route. And for such an insanely large pack, I imagine it should be broken down into multiple sub-packs that link together... that would allow for more manageable "swaps" without the need of a forklift. Even still, I'm not so sure there would be anything fast about swapping such a massive pack. (1950 lbs according to this article).


there are level 3 charging stations today capable of recharging in minutes not hours also quick charging may be available filling to 80% in a fast time

Janine Simons

Electric vehicle for endurance racing? I think this is a very bad idea, there is not enough autonomy for that and the time to fill up a battery is too long, especially considering that there is no electric installation in the middle of the desert in the first place. What is the point to run a petrol generator to generate electricity to recharge a battery? You just spend more petrol!


So they are in ME contries where most oil is produced and as a result is often cheaper to buy than drinking-water, yet they are presumably shipping fuel from the US for these vehicles. The price of $400 per gallon probably means the smaller US gallon so it equates to $500 in standard gallons....even worse!


diesel charging station? is the cost of diesel only $350 a gallon? i also question all the shifting and transmission equipment.


With the U.S. military’s fuel bill for foreign theater operations comes in at roughly $400/gallon, it's easy to see that solar or/and wind powered charging would be a shoe-in. With new studies showing that it's cheaper to install wind power from the ground up than it is to utilize coal or gasoline from the ground up, this should all come as no surprise, given the $400/ gallon figure.

Howard Seaborn

On a road style vehicle, I agree the motors should go to the wheels but I believe with an off road vehicle like this, the weight of a motor attached directly to the wheels, they would stall the suspension to much. The stored energy would be a killer on the return and be quite stressful on the mounts of a motor that style. Mind you, if they could be attached to the end of the drive shafts as part of the shaft, ditch the housings etc would be a benefit.

I can just imagine the military yelling out to the enemy with a wave of a white handkerchief, excuse me, do you have an extension lead and power point I can borrow?


For those of you wondering about how the recharging is done, extra battery packs are being charged on the trailer while the chase truck is enroute to the pitstop. When the race car arrives, the battery packs are swappec via a winch. Also, the diesel generator, when coupled with a hydrogen generator, increases the efficiency of the diesel generator by 40-70%. Hope this helps clear up questions.

Garrett Smith
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