Megawatt Electric Car to Pike’s Peak: Challenge Accepted
Tom Lombardo posted on April 13, 2015 | 9318 views

Electric car company Drive eO made its first attempt at the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb back in 2013. They came back with a new design - a modified Tesla Roadster - for the 2014 challenge. Drive eO hopes the third time’s a charm, as it prepares to climb the mountain with the PP03, a custom EV that the company says is the world’s first megawatt electric car. This time, they expect to win.

Nearly 1400 Horses Under the Hood

The eO’s 1020 kW powertrain delivers an incredible 1368 horsepower. It would take more than three 6-liter V8 internal combustion engines (ICEs) to reach that output level. Who says electric cars are weak?

All that rotational power comes from six Yasa-400 electric motors - three motors per axle. The machine utilizes axial flux permanent magnet synchronous motors, a type of AC motor that offers high torque, low rotational speed, and excellent efficiency - better than 95 percent in this case. Speed is controlled by an inverter with a variable frequency output. The combination of motors gives the PP03 a peak torque of 2160 nM and a maximum speed of 260 km/h (161 mph).

The “Fuel Tank”

A 50 kWh Li-ion battery pack stores the PP03’s energy, which seems awfully small considering the car’s power. If you were to drive at full speed, the battery would be depleted in about 3 minutes. Since the course spans 20 km (12.4 mi) at an average incline of seven percent with over 150 turns, the car won’t be running close to full speed. The battery pack will provide adequate range for this application.

Obviously the PP03 was designed for a single purpose: to run this particular race. To determine the optimal amount of torque and energy needed, engineers used data they collected from their first two Pike’s Peak attempts. This included information they gathered from their hybrid vehicle entry at the Dakar Rally. A “normal” electric vehicle would be perfectly happy with a 50 kWh battery bank and one-tenth of the motor power that the PP03 has.

Noticeably absent from this car is a staple of electric vehicles: regenerative braking. Since the vehicle is designed to go uphill for 20 km, battery range isnt an issue and I’m guessing the driver will hardly touch the brake pedal anyway.

Assemble, Test, Race

At the time of this writing, the PP03 is being assembled at Drive eO’s factory in Latvia - hence the lack of photos. (The car will be revealed to the public later this month, around the same time they introduce the driver who will pilot the vehicle during the race.) The company will conduct testing in May and expects the car to be ready to ascend Pike’s Peak on June 28th.

What’s the Practical Benefit?

Okay - most of us won’t be racing to the top of a mountain in our everyday vehicles, so what’s the point of making a car like the PP03? The obvious answer is spin-off technology. Research and development that’s being conducted on electric racing vehicles has led to better composite materials, more efficient electric motors and intelligent battery control systems. Five years from now, when electric vehicles have the same sticker price, range and “refueling” times as their ICE counterparts, we’ll be thanking the engineers who decided that there “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to keep EVs off the road.

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