Scientist Bill Nye urges NASCAR to shift to electric cars

The famed scientist that my generation grew up watching in grade school has a wild idea to make NASCAR a fully electric form of auto racing.

In the motorsports world today, the precedent for such a series would be FIA Formula E, which is currently contesting its second season after a successful first year.

Nye, commonly referred to as "BiIl Nye the Science Guy," graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He has the stock car world debating tonight after publishing a blog post titled "If NASCAR Embraced Electric Cars, It Could Change the World.”

NASCAR's Go-Green initiative

His argument states that NASCAR could be a leader in cutting emissions if they would just embrace electric-powered cars (a task easier said than done). To NASCAR's credit, they are still a leader when it comes to 'going green' with a massive recycling initiative, unmatched by other sports. In 2012, NASCAR also made the switch to electronic fuel injection, ditching the carburetors and running Sunoco fuel made up of 15 percent ethanol.

The sooner NASCAR embraces electric drive trains, the sooner the US can be the world leader in automotive technology

Bill Nye

Several tracks have also made their own contribution to the 'go green' movement, such as Sonoma Raceway, whose 1,700 solar panels account for over 40 percent of the circuit's power usage.

"Here I am trying to envision the smart, efficient transportation technology of tomorrow, and there is NASCAR doing the opposite – celebrating a very old transportation technology of yesterday," Nye said in his blog.

"I wish NASCAR set up Grand Challenges to inspire companies and individuals to create novel automotive technologies in the way NASA does to create novel space technologies ... A race with rules designed to reward the coolest, most advanced vehicle technologies.

Racing and innovation

He continued, stating that racing should be all about innovation and pushing the limits of the latest tech available, citing the innovative STP-Paxton Turbocar, which competed in both the 1966 and 1967 Indy 500s (almost winning the latter).

"Let me offer a backward-looking yet forward-thinking story. When I was a kid, auto-racing was where new technology was developed rather than where old technology was preserved or even celebrated."

Nye proposed his own unique new system of pitting for his theoretic NESCAR (National Electric Stock Car Racing), as he called it.

"Instead of refueling a gas tank, the electric race car pit crew would change battery packs. The car would be designed to roll up a ramp. The battery pack would be disconnected and dropped out. Moments later, a fresh battery pack would be lifted into place, and off our electric racer would go with time in the pit comparable to what it takes to refuel and service a conventional gas-powered race car."

He concluded, "The sooner NASCAR embraces electric drive trains, the sooner the US can be the world leader in automotive technology, and the sooner we can stop pumping carbon dioxide into the air every time we want to go somewhere to get groceries, pick up the soccer team, commute to work or watch a race.

"I’m saying racing should be about the future rather than the past."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Article type Breaking news
Tags bill nye, electric cars, go green