An EV Competed In and Survived One of the World’s Longest Endurance Races | Autance

It swapped batteries during pit stops.

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An EV Competed In and Survived One of the World’s Longest Endurance Races | Autance © An EV Competed In and Survived One of the World’s Longest Endurance Races | Autance

This past weekend, Entropy Racing/EVSR entered its lithium iron phosphate battery-powered EV sports racer in the 2021 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race and came in first place in the EM class. It was the only entry in this class, but still, the car finished, and the way the team did so is fascinating.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

After an 11-hour fog delay at the event, the the Pennsylvania-based team set out to run the entirety of the remaining 14 hours without issue. Entropy Racing/EVSR isn’t new to racing an electric vehicle, as the team has raced in more than 100 events throughout the past eight years.

Entropy Racing/EVSR has accomplished all of this by hot-swapping batteries during pit stops. The team has a really fascinating process of doing so when the car comes into pit that involves replacing two battery packs strapped to each side of the little sport racer-based tube frame racecar.

Upon first glance, this doesn’t look like the safest way to cart batteries around, either in the pit or strapped to the side of a racecar that is ripping around a track with other racecars. But according to Epec engineering and comments in this video by EVSR, lithium iron phosphate batteries aren’t prone to explode and catch on fire if like lithium-ion batteries seem to be known for. Though, they aren’t considered perfectly safe, either. As far as finding the ideal type of battery or mounting system, it seems like more work has to be done to achieve concrete absolutes here.

Anyway, in addition to the previous hyperlink, this video taken during a practice event demonstrates what the battery swap looks like.

In a sport racer, especially one like this that weighs in at 1,800 pounds and has 180 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, heavy battery packs are no issue in regards to speed. It’s still plenty fast. Apparently, tire degradation isn’t much of an issue either, as the team reports it only went through two sets of Hoosier racing slicks. I also imagine that having the weight centered between the front and rear wheels does wonders for handling and braking, possibly more than an internal-combustion-engined (ICE) sport racer chassis.

Why It Matters

This is a solid example that EVs are feasible for motorsports. Entropy Racer/EVSR has come up with a safe and easy way to swap batteries to get the necessary range in extreme-distance endurance racing, so there’s no reason why this same concept can’t translate to more racing classes and series.

Formula E has been around for a while, but it has always sort of had a bad rap for running very short races and coming up with weird car-swapping strategies, among other things.

For now, lithium iron phosphate batteries seem like the no-brainer choice for power, but they’re probably only feasible in sport racers and other featherlight, tube-frame fare. If lighter batteries that are more volatile are to be considered, important safety measures will need to be taken. 

One aspect that is truly cool about hot-swapping batteries during an amateur endurance racing event is it seems like there is a complete lack of a fire hazard. Notice in the above Facebook link that no crew member is wearing fire retardant clothing, and there isn’t a crew member standing there with an extinguisher, ready to spray someone down if necessary. This makes pit stops far less of a pain, and trust me, I know this from experience as a fueler on an amateur endurance racing team. There’s also no threat of accidentally spilling fuel on the ground. In gas races, this is typically an automatic time penalty given by marshals on pit row.

Some people might say that a two-minute pit stop is awfully long. However, in amateur endurance racing, that’s actually a normal pit time when tires, gas, windshield cleaning, and everything else is factored in. Some amateur racing series even mandate a minimum pit time to ensure that teams aren’t rushed and can operate as safely as possible. Only pro-level racing requires as short of a pit stop as possible.

What To Look For Next

I’ll be interested to see if more people will get into electric-powered sport racer-type platforms in amateur racing, as Entropy/EVSR has proven it can work and has its advantages. 

I also wonder if similar methods will translate in the not-too-distant future to pro-level racing, where there could be the possibility of swapping battery types with higher energy output into more varieties of cars, like GT, touring car, and prototype platforms.

It’s great to see this type of progress, and Entropy/EVSR successfully finishing such a legendary endurance racing event is proof that there’s lots of untapped potential in racing EVs.

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