It helps to have friends in the business, especially if that profession is auto racing.
We recently got access to the pits at the American Le Mans Series raceway in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Calif., thanks to Avnet Express and Mouser Electronics, which sponsored cars at the respective events.
Le Mans became a stop for the Chevy Volt that EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller is taking cross-country on the Drive for Innovation. The trip is a partnership between Design News parent UBM Electronics and Avnet Express. The Volt drove a parade lap around the historic speedway, and then we stuck around to get some shots of the races and 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal.
Seven days later, we were at the Infineon Raceway for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. We met driver Ho-Pin Tung, who was driving Mouser-sponsored car 88 (pictured below).
Click the image below to view our slideshow of the two races:
Driver Ho-Pin Tung in his Indy car at Infineon Raceway for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. (Photo courtesy Mouser Electronics)
For Further Reading
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
I'm now kicking myself for not bringing my Nikon SLR along for that leg of the trip! But the iPhone 4 does a creditable job capturing still and video.
Thanks for posting this. We got a chance to talk with Jay O'Connell, Bobby Rahal's chief engineer and he gave us a sense for the amazing communication that goes on in real time between the cars and the pit crew during the race (and which shows up graphically on their computing screens as what they call "marching ants" as the cars zoom around the track!).
Here's a link to our post about how O'Connell and team are so good at what they do, that race series organizers have put a governor on their cars!
Anyone care to opine on just when and under what conditions we might find an all electric Indy race car? It might take some creative interpretations of the rules or some edits but I am willing to bet it will not be too long before an all electric car is entered.
I recall the turbine driven entry froma while back that almost won. That prompted some rule changes and I don't think we have seen one since.
It would definitely mark a turning point in the storied history of Indy racing!
Ivan: Yes...Parnelli Jones' turbine car ran at Indy in 1968. The technology was quickly legislated out of future races. And you're right, Indy is all about rules, rules, rules, so an electric car would face a mountain of obstacles. I think you're onto something, though. What about an ALL-electric Indy race, where cars pull into the pits every 40 miles or so and use fast-battery-swap technology to install new sets of batteries? Sure, the cars would be slower than today's Indy cars, but maybe not as much slower as we might initially believe. Look this up: The White Lightning all-electric car actually ran at speeds of 240 mph. Maybe the race would have to be shortened, but it can be done. You may have launched a movement here, Ivan.
Beth, Data Acquisition has been around for decades on race cars. Telemetry is cheap enough today, that even lower classes of racing are using it. If you want to know more about these electronics, you can go to http://www.cosworth.com/Default.aspx?id=1094933 The data is used to make the car and driver faster. Think about shift points, braking points, slower drivers not using full throttle either due to poor car setup or lack of confidence in the car.
Electric Indy, I doubt that the fans will show up for a race where the cars are so quiet that you can't hear them. The sound of an electric motor whining around the track does not get the adrenaline going. Interesting - Yes, Exhilarating - No.
Racing electric vehicles has been a constant evolution since their invention 100 years ago and solving challenges related to range, speed and quick battery swaps are all within reach towards creating a vehicle that can compete against a current Indy Car. However, if the race does not provide the visceral experience of hearing and feeling the noise of 20 highly tuned Indy Car engines hurtling down the front straight, there is little chance of atracting fans to the stands, to witness (read: fund) the event.
Yes, Charles, that what I was thinking. It wouldn't work in a "real" Indy race for the rules reasons that you mentioned. It might however work as an exhibition. More likely, however, the technology leaders in electric automotive would probably need to do something like license the "Indy" name as a means of showing off their latest and greatest technologies. However, isn't that sort of how the racing circuits were originally established - to show off the high-end engine techs?
The "INDY 500" is a great example of just how many rules can be applied to an activity. The opposite, which is more down to earth, and much farther away from NASA, is "World Of Outlaws" racing. Race cars costing hundreds of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.
My impression, during the time I was able to look at one of those cars from a touchable distance, was that they are far closer to a military high performance aircraft than to a race car. Many of the components were the same, such as tubing and electrical connectors, and frame attachments. Of course, for driving at those speeds for extended periods of time, it probably is appropriate to use that variety of components.
As a lifetime fan of professional big-time car racing (and sports fan in general), I was interested to read the various comments by engineers concerning IndyCar racing. I've attended several IndyCar races, and many NASCAR races over the years.
First of all, professional auto racing is a sport, and all sports have rules. It's really all about the sports competition, not the equipment. Every team must follow the same rules. While it takes a great car to win a race, it also requires a great driver and team. People race cars because people have been racing...well since there's been people (but yes, the manufacturers like the marketing of thier products through racing).
Second, rules in racing is to contain costs and provide safety. With no rules, the cars would be much-much faster! I remember seeing speeds of 270 mph at Indianapolis many years ago, just way too fast! F1 mandated a chicane at Indy to keep the speeds down on the main oval for safety, too fast for the F1 cars and their tires. With no rules, there would be the tendency for one or several drivers/cars/teams that would dominate, those who spend the most money. It takes a great driver to beat the rest when the cars are evenly matched..."sporting event".
For those who desire an electric car Indy race, why not form your own professional race organization for electric race cars? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway may actually like having another feeder race before the actual Indy 500 (or Brickyard 400 for NASCAR). Who knows, maybe it would even be popular and attract attention, further progressing the sport (the way Indy racing started out).
I don't expect a Toyota Prius to perform in acceleration, handling and braking with my 1998 Chevy Camaro Z28, but I can't compete with the fuel efficiency of the Prius. ...but then, the Prius was not designed and engineered to be a competent 2-door sport coupe "performance" car.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
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