There's no denying that since Formula E got going in 2014, electric motorsport has made its way into the public's psyche with 411 million people watching its flagship series last year. Now, the world's first electric-powered touring car, the CUPRA e-Racer, has made its track début with rallying and rally cross stalwart, Mattias Ekström, behind the wheel.
CUPRA's e-Racer is destined to take part in the ETCR (electronic touring car) series which will have its inaugural season next year. The car boasts 670bhp, which we can only guess also means an absolute mountain of torque, and represents a fair step-up from 345bhp power limit dictated by conventional touring car regulations.
As you'd expect, the CUPRA e-Racer is fast; 0-62mph takes 3.2 seconds, with 124mph coming up in 8.2 seconds. Its top speed is 167mph, and you can bet it reaches that speed pretty quickly, with each of the four motors spinning up to 12,000rpm and not having a sequential gearbox to worry about.
While the lack of a gearbox saves weight, it is made up for with the 450kg, 65kWh battery which has been developed by Williams Advanced Engineering. And unlike a petrol tank, draining it – which takes all of 25 miles – doesn't lighten the load. Despite the heft, CUPRA's resident racing driver, Ekström, was positive about the shake-down around the Montmeló Circuit in Barcelona.
“It felt really good, especially when reaching full power coming out of the slow corners on the circuit. I really enjoyed the first lap,” said the Finn.
Getting used to an EV racing car wasn't without its challenges, however: “I think the biggest challenge is getting used to driving with no gearbox and without the roar of the engine as a reference for knowing, for example, how fast to go when taking curves,” Ekström added.
CUPRA will have some stiff competition when the series kicks off next year, and whilst we're still finding out about how it will unfold in terms of teams and drivers, we do know that Hyundai is hot on the Spanish manufacturer's heels. It demonstrated their Veloster N ETCR at the Frankfurt Motor Show and since then, various videos have cropped up online of the car hammering around the Hungaroring.
ETCR isn't the only electric motorsport getting underway in the near future; for those who prefer their motorsport with added mud, Extreme E should fit the bill. Kicking off in 2021 and featuring Dakar-like SUVs powered purely by electricity, Extreme E will take place on short rally-raid style stages of around six miles in length at locations from glaciers to rainforests.
So far, we've seen the Odyssey 21 Extreme E SUV at Goodwood, but it was at a stage in development where it really wasn't making the most of its 536bhp. However, in the last week, the Odyssey 21 has been run for the first time at full tilt, thanks to the installation of the final race-spec XE motor, allowing for a proper shake-down to be undertaken.
Speaking to Autosport, World Rally Cross Driver and Extreme E test driver, Kevin Hansen, was extremely positive about the electric SUV: “I was surprised in many ways – it handles like a performance car and I was expecting a heavy car, a lazy car – a soft one. But you brake and start to push and it just feels natural, which is a very good job from the engineers to make a car feel just like it should be feeling this early."
So the outlook is positive for both the Extreme E series, and ETCR, if the feedback from the drivers and aspiring teams is anything to go by. We're really looking forward to both taking their place in an ever-growing list of e-motorsports, which are demonstrating that EVs don't need to be boring, bland and uninteresting. The lack of sound aside, EVs can deliver some of the most intense, interesting racing on the planet, and as F1 and WRC popularity wanes, perhaps now is the time for the rise of e-motorsport...