Just as horses continue to be popular for racing while no longer being a regular form of transportation, car racing will be one of the last parts of the internal combustion engine as other forms of vehicles go electric. But one race series has tied the knot and is now switching. Rallycross has been running on fossil fuels for over 50 years and since 2014 on the FIA accredited World Rallycross (RX) version. World RX ditched dinosaur juice and opted for a fully electrified future.
The inaugural all-electric World RX race will take place (perhaps appropriately) in Hell, Norway. World RX has had a secondary RX2e series that uses EVs for a few years now, but from now on the main RX1 series will also be electric and become RX1e. Rallycross, as the name suggests, is a hybrid of off-road rallying with racing on the track. The tracks include both asphalt and gravel, making them extremely challenging for drivers who need to master the controls of the cars on both types of surfaces.
When rallycross was invented in 1967, it was geared towards TV, and to make them more broadcast-friendly, the races are short and action-packed. The tracks are twisty, often very hilly, and the cars only have to cover a few laps per session. So strong acceleration is essential, but it is not necessary to take hours. This makes rallycross a perfect candidate for electric cars, which deliver tremendous power and torque from the moment you touch the accelerator, but which may not be able to handle a very long session when it’s usually deployed.
World RX officially announced its plans to go electric in 2020. Discussions were already underway in 2018 for a 2020 debut, but this was with the series’ previous promoter and the deadline passed when the partnership changed. In a sport so popular with sustainability-conscious Scandinavians, the eco-friendly take on the exciting World RX could have been the main focus. However, the drivers also claim that the new electric cars will be much faster than the previous ones with combustion engines. Some even say they don’t want to go back to combustion. After testing the powertrain installed in a “mule” rally car in Austria, Andreas Mikkelsen, winner of the 2021 WRC-2 and the European Rally Championship, said he couldn’t remember when he had laughed so much at the acceleration of the car. a car.
The powertrain is common to all cars and is supplied by Kreisel. The batteries supplied by Kreisel can deliver 500 kW (equivalent to 680 hp) of power to a four-wheel drive motor system for the entire duration of a race, with a massive 880 Nm of torque. The secret behind this is a cooling system that uses dielectric fluid (which does not conduct electricity) through individual cells. This can also be supplemented with a trackside conditioner, which Formula E also does, to keep them at optimum temperature. World RX expects the packs to race for four years. Kreisel also supplies high-performance battery systems to pioneering electric motor boat manufacturer X coastis also making a name for itself as a supplier of specialty batteries intended for speed in other areas as well.
This 52 kWh package weighs just 330 kg and with other savings the cars come out at around 1,400 kg. That means a power-to-weight ratio of almost 500 horsepower per (metric) ton. A Formula 1 car has a much higher power-to-weight ratio, but rear-wheel drive can’t necessarily do it as well as the four-wheel-drive World RX electric car. The RX1e’s 0-100 km/h sprint time is less than two seconds, giving it faster acceleration than a current F1 car.
The World RX electric racer already set a lap record at Höljes in Sweden, which would be the electric car’s racing debut, but delivery problems delayed the launch until Hell. Four-time FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson, who also won Extreme E’s inaugural season, says: “I think fans will be surprised by the performance and speed.” Newcomer Klara Anderson, a 22-year-old who also makes history as the first woman to compete in the top FIA-accredited rallycross World Series, describes the acceleration as “brutal”.
The World RX’s focus on sustainability doesn’t stop at the cars’ powertrains. The series’ tire partner, Cooper Tires, has tried to do its part. The World RX tires for the RX1e have been reduced by 400g each and are made from a sturdier material to handle the extra torque of an EV. The company has also experimented with bio-oils during production and with dandelions as a source of natural rubber, although the latter is still in the experimental phase. Even the track building partner, Volvo, has a sustainability mission. All of his smaller off-road equipment was electric in Hell, although only one of his larger machines was: a huge backhoe, standing proudly over the track.
This is a bold move by World RX. Of course there will be resistance. Some diehards will probably view this shift as a mockery. If you want your motorsport to be deafening and smelly, much quieter and cleaner electric racing will take some getting used to. But the proof of the pudding will be in the running. The signs are that the RX1e cars will be faster than the previous generation, and could soon be much faster once the teams get used to getting the most out of them. As World RX driver Timmy Hansen says, “I just like driving fast cars, and it’s a fast car.”