Is the Future of NASCAR Electric?

NASCAR pit stops might seem like they happen in the blink of an eye — with most of them happening in less than 16 seconds — but a lot goes on in that blink. Crews can refuel the vehicle, change tires, carry out repairs or adjustments, and even swap out drivers, all in less than a minute. But what happens to the well-oiled machine that is a pit crew if you take things like fueling and engine repairs out of the equation?

As the world collectively starts to move toward electric vehicles, experts and fans alike are wondering the same thing: are electric vehicles (EVs) going to be the future of NASCAR and racing as a whole?

Introducing the Next Gen

One of the most iconic parts of sitting in the stands at a NASCAR race is feeling the rumble of the engines and hearing the roar of the exhaust as the drivers speed around the tracks. You don't get that with a fully electric car, though consumer versions are required by law to emit a noise that reaches at least 40 dB so pedestrians can hear it approaching. For comparison, that's about the same noise level as a softly humming refrigerator.

We won't be hearing softly humming NASCAR cars anytime soon. The next generation of NASCAR vehicles comes equipped with a hybrid battery-assisted engine. When it premieres in 2022, it is expected to be race-ready with an independent rear suspension, a single-lug assembly, and low-profile 18" racing wheels.

Electric Sports Cars Are Emerging

In an effort to reduce our carbon footprints and prevent a looming climate disaster, countries around the world are setting up plans to move away from internal combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles. Even iconic sports cars, like the Chevy Corvette, have rumors swirling around that they're going to start offering electric options.

Other brands, like Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Porsche, have all started creating fully electric or hybrid versions of their most iconic cars, making it easier to mesh sustainability with luxury. Electric cars have the added benefit of being able to increase their horsepower simply by adding new motors to the vehicles, something that takes massive upgrades, redesigns, and overhauls on more traditional internal combustion engines.

Exploring an All-Electric Racing Series

Daytona International Speedway is one of the most well-known racetracks in the world. But can you imagine sitting in the stands for the Daytona 500 without the roar of the engines as they blow past? That may be just what we have to look forward to in the next few years. NASCAR is reportedly planning on creating an all-electric racing series.

This would serve as a companion race to the better-known NASCAR cup series, rather than as a replacement, but it could create a foothold for EVs in the racing world.

The Technology Isn't Quite There Yet

When it comes down to it, EV technology wouldn't work for long races like the Daytona 500 or the 24 hours of Le Mans. Refueling a gasoline-powered race car takes seconds. Charging a battery pack in an EV can take hours. It wouldn't make for a very entertaining race if drivers had to park and plug their vehicles in for extended periods.

Race car manufacturers may be able to overcome this challenge by creating racing EVs that have quick-swap battery packs. Of course, that will create a new challenge, since standard EV battery packs weigh upwards of 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) — a lot more than a car battery or a tire that a pit crew member might be able to handle on their own.

What Does the Future of NASCAR Look Like?

It's a little early to predict what the future of NASCAR might look like, but with the collective push toward electric consumer vehicles, it makes sense that it will start to bleed into the racing industry, as well. NASCAR is already working to introduce a hybrid racer, as well as a fully electric racing circuit. It will be interesting to see what the next few years bring, both for NASCAR and the racing industry as a whole.

Comments and Conversation

March 18, 2022

Thomas L Pawlenko:

F1 has already advanced E-racing tech a long ways. But races of more than an hour are still outside the realm of ability. But just s few tears ago they needed 2 cars to go that long. Now tgey can even flash charge a car in the pits during a race.

E-racing is coming to all forms of racing just not for a while yet.

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