Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hey Chevrolet!

I am not going to lie. I miss auto racing. When I was a kid, I knew the names of every driver who placed on the pole from the previous weeks Indy Car race. I could talk for hours about the chances of Formula One drivers and teams in the next season. I spent the first decades of my adult life fixing cars for customers and examining the engineering of automakers from the inside out. When in my early twenties I found motorcycles, my passion for faster and intelligently controlled machines seemed to apex.

It was soon after that I began to learn about the effects of human technology on the environment. My enthusiasm struggled under my concern, and prudence won out. But today I became truly excited about something, like a deep longing being stirred. The idea that electric car technology has come far enough that competitive exciting racing is feasible, is one thing. That it exists, is another.

Right now, privateers and unofficially sponsored teams dominate the landscape. I think that will change soon. The EV market is growing, and visibility is increasing daily in many major markets. Front runners like Tesla are making obvious moves to lead the pack when EV racing hits prime time. The marketing opportunities of a sanctioned and televised circuit of EV races would provide manufacturers access to new markets as the "tree hugger" stigma is rapidly supplanted by simple thrift in the face of rising gas prices.

A small step GM could take to ensure market share, would be to discount the equipment related to the Volt that would be applicable to a "formula" type racing circuit. Small open wheel light body racing, might also bring about valuable R&D as individual competition leads to innovation. The EV could bring back a kind of Hot Rod renaissance, with guy talk of power controllers and miles per charge.

Toyota is working in the opposite direction, shoring up access to their technology by limiting who is trained to work on their Hybrid/EV fleet. I have not looked into Nissan yet, but they have a racing tradition that cannot be overlooked. I would not be surprised to find either of these companies with well developed EV racing programs somewhere behind the scenes.

In my imagination, I see pit stops where rapid battery changes compete with tires for the spectator's attention. Pit crew leaders fighting with designers on the radio over how high they can turn the juice and still make the finish line. Most importantly I still see the excitement of a talented driver pushing his machine to the limit of consequences.