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IndyCar Mid-Ohio

Why IndyCar won’t go down an all-electric route

New electrical hybrid is not the first step to a full EV future for America’s premier open-wheel series

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Global Honda

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Global Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The IndyCar Series’ electrical hybrid system makes its debut at Mid-Ohio this weekend, but series president Jay Frye insists it won’t go down a full EV route in years to come.

The new hybrid, which has been developed jointly by IndyCar’s engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda, produces 60bhp at present – with scope for increasing its output in the future.

As NASCAR unveiled an all-electric prototype today, that is about “exploring what our future could be” according to series chiefs, IndyCar has pledged its electrification future to a hybrid system that’s based around an internal combustion engine.

It harnesses braking energy that would otherwise be wasted, which is stored electrically by 20 supercapacitors. This energy can then deployed at will by drivers – via the same Motor Generator Unit that produced it – by it spinning in the opposite direction into the transmission, giving them an extra boost of power during traction events to give added speed along straights.

When asked whether this was a first step towards an all-electric future for the series, Frye was adamant that the move reflected the direction of the hybrid road-car market.

“Each series has their own identity, their own niche of what they do,” said Frye. “[At] INDYCAR, we certainly have no aspirations of being a fully electric series.

“We're fast, loud and authentic, that type of thing. [The hybrid] is an enhancement to our overall program. This is something that is very relevant in street cars and in passenger cars. We think the hybrid program is the way to go into the future.

“We're very comfortable with where we're at right now. We're very comfortable where we're going to be the next couple, two, three years, and then we'll see what the future looks like beyond that.

“I certainly don't see INDYCAR becoming a full EV series.”

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

When pushed on why that is, Frye pointed to Formula E – the all-electric open-wheel series that’s been established since 2014 – as owning the USP for that racing genre.

“There is a series that does that, and they do a great job of that,” he said. “Each of the international and national touring series do a little bit different things.

“We, again, with our partners at Honda and Chevrolet, we feel really good about the future of the hybrid.

“I think there's been a lot of talk about that here recently. We're very comfortable with the direction we're going.”

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