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NASCAR Cup Chicago

NASCAR formally unveils its EV prototype race car at Chicago

NASCAR formally unveiled its electric vehicle prototype race car on Saturday in Chicago but don’t expect to see it in any national series anytime soon – or perhaps ever.

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

Photo by: NASCAR Media

As part of its new partnership with ABB, a leader in electrification and automation, NASCAR introduced its ABB NASCAR EV Prototype at the site of this weekend’s Chicago Street Race.

ABB becomes the first official partner of the “NASCAR Impact” initiative, the sanctioning body’s platform to advance sustainability across electrification.

As part of the partnership, ABB will help NASCAR achieve public sustainability targets around electrification and electric vehicle charging.

At the core of “NASCAR impact” is NASCAR’s plan to reduce its own carbon footprint to zero across its core operations by 2035. In addition, it plans to source 100-percent renewable electricity at its owned race tracks and facilities by 2028, expand waste diversion efforts, and on-site EV charging stations.

The future of EV in NASCAR

The multi-year research and development effort that went into the construction of the EV prototype race car is illustrative of NASCAR’s commitment to showcasing new electrification technologies.

Its creation does not mean NASCAR is about to abandon the historic role of the combustion engine in its racing, however.

“Today, obviously, we have the combustion engine. There’s a long, long road ahead for the combustion engine, be it powered from sustainable fuel or hydrogen for that matter,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief racing development officer.

“Then there’s also the electrification side of that via hybrid. They’re on hybrids (in IMSA). Today we have battery electric.

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

Photo by: NASCAR Media

“As you know, we look towards net zero operating emissions for us by 2035, so at this point, I’m not sitting here saying we’re going to announce a series. That’s not what this is about.”

Instead, Probst said, the EV prototype is about “exploring what our future could be.”

“We built this car. We put it on track. That is our point, is to learn,” he said. “We’ll have a story tell as we learn. And we’ll be in the driver’s seat wherever our future takes us.

“If you look out across the landscape, one thing that’s for certain is that change is accelerating all around us.”

About the car

The prototype was developed in collaboration with NASCAR’s OEM partners – Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota – and was built by the same engineers responsible for the creation of the current Next Gen car used in the Cup Series and the “Garage 56” entry which was run in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event.

The electrified stock car, which has been track-tested several times, has three STARD UHP 6-Phase motors (one front, two rear) supplying power directly to all four specially designed Goodyear tires.

Anchored by a 78-kWh liquid-cooled battery, the tunable powertrain can produce 1,000 kW at peak power. Regenerative braking converts kinetic energy into power, which could make the car ideal for road courses and short oval tracks.

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

Photo by: NASCAR Media

The all-wheel drive car has a generic crossover utility vehicle (CUV) body made of sustainable flax-based composite. It sits on a modified Next Gen car chassis and the steering, suspension, brakes, and wheels all derive from the current Cup car.

Former NASCAR Cup driver David Ragan has served as the test driver for the EV prototype – a process that he said was “really fun” to be a part of.

“The viewpoint was a little different from a driver’s seat, but the sights and the sounds were extremely different,” Ragan said of driving the car. “I could hear the tires squealing or chattering mid-corner. You could smell the brakes a lot more.

“I feel like that the engine smells and the noise kind of overpower a lot of things that you just take for granted.”

Looking forward

With the EV prototype in hand, where does NASCAR go next in its development of racing technology?

Probst believes the creation of an all-electric racing vehicle opens the door for NASCAR and manufacturers to explore many ideas once thought impossible or unlikely.

“It’s certainly an opportunity for us to evaluate this. If you launched this and we immediately launched a new series, it’s a lot of pressure to maybe get it wrong,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to, you know, you see it with the OEM’s a lot, they put out prototype cars at car shows and judge the reaction from the fans and decide whether they want to go in this direction or do we want to go in that direction.

“It’s also a way for us to work with them and discover where do we want to be. The entire landscape of powertrains in general are in an incredible state of change.”

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

ABB NASCAR EV Prototype

Photo by: NASCAR Media

NASCAR’s EV prototype is the first major U.S. motorsports project to incorporate flax-based composites which were developed by Swiss lightweighting specialists Bcomp. The bodywork uses Bcomp’s ampliTex technical fabrics in conjunction with powerRibs, which were inspired by the vein structure of leaves, to harness the natural advantages of flax fiber, a sustainable material. 

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