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.