The 106th edition of the Indianapolis 500 Miles will take place this weekend. The 33 cars will compete in a race of 800 kilometers, and the IndyCar is considering greening the picture a little.
Like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indy 500 is one of the legendary car races. And like the other two, she is looking for a way to survive the electrification of the automobile.
Indeed, if F1 and endurance have crossed the threshold of the hybrid almost ten years ago, the IndyCar is still not there. It is currently a 2.4-liter V6 of 580 horsepower running on E85, from Chevrolet or Honda, which powers the Dallara single-seaters.
But IndyCar is aware that this technology without hybridization is not viable in the long term. An electrified engine is indeed expected by 2024, ten years exactly after the adoption of V6 hybrids by F1.
It will still be a 2.4-litre V6, this time producing 900 horsepower, 100 of which comes from an electric unit. But the teams envisage that this hybrid era can only be a transition towards massive electrification.
« Given the evolution of our world, we are going in this direction said Mike Shank. The owner of the Meyer Shank team, in which Frenchman Simon Pagenaud rides, is already thinking about it.
« When it comes to electrification, hybridization is clearly the easy target. These are not hybrid cars, but pure electric ones. What we try to do with the team is to prepare for that. »
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IndyCar cars, in their Indianapolis 500 version, are some of the fastest in the world. Scott Dixon took pole position with an average of 376.580 km/h over four laps. Top speeds exceed 390 km/h for the fastest riders.
And it is indirectly these data which give arguments to the skeptics of the electric. The IndyCar leitmotif has always been ” fast and loud “, but with an electric motor, one of the characteristics would disappear.
« Noise is a generational thing “Notes Mike Hull, manager of the Ganassi team, in which Dixon rides. ” The generation that will set the future for future generations will have grown up accustomed to a different sound than we have. »
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And Hull to consider a mental shift seeing a “zero emission” IndyCar in Indianapolis: ” In your mind you’ll think a car that fast can’t make that sound, but it will. ».
However, Hull expects IndyCar to follow the rules the authorities will impose on road cars. ” Governments design the road cars today “continues Hull. ” I think it’s done backwards, but the reality is that they tell manufacturers what vehicles need for the future. We’ll be racing versions of that, no doubt. »
An electric Indy 500 is “distant” but “interesting”
Not all IndyCar players are skeptical of this idea of an electric Indy 500. This is the case of driver JR Hildebrand, second in the event in 2011, who is competing in it this year.
« This is one of the most interesting questions in motorsport “, he notes. The American tempers the current possibility of doing these 800 kilometers in electric currently.
Indeed, in addition to the average speed and the distance, the fact that the pilots release the accelerator very little makes regeneration almost zero, unlike Formula E.
« We are far from a technology that would allow us to do 800 kilometers at 290 km/h on average. If we look at the biggest categories of motorsport and we pit an electric car against a thermal car, the Indy 500 is one of the most difficult. »