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Tesla racing series: Electric cars get the green light – Roadshow (cnet.com)
77 points by rbanffy on Feb 2, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

As a car modder/tuner myself, having watched electric cars racing before, I can say it's a very different experience and likely won't appeal much to the existing large consumer base of racing fans. Electric cars are far more "sterile", for lack of a better word, and just doesn't appeal to my senses in quite the same way as the sights, sounds, and smells of a fuel-burning one; or to put it another way, going fast is not the only thing people like about racing.

Give it a couple of races, and people with have the "electric" version of all the sensations you listed - Sights / Sounds / Smells.

We are good at evolving!

>doesn't appeal to my senses in quite the same way as the sights, sounds, and smells of a fuel-burning one

In the future our great grandchildren will look at comments like that with disgust, much the same way we think about harvesting whales or elephants today. Heathens

It's always easy to appeal to the morals of future people, since they don't exist yet.

For televised viewership, sounds and smells aren't really part of the experience even for conventional car racing.

Smells aren’t but sounds? It’s quite a big deal especially for sport events like racing.

I haven't myself observed that motor sports telecasts capture the sound of the vehicles with any great fidelity, most of the time they sound quite muted.

Perhaps they will need to have the latest sound simulation tech to lively it up for the fans.

...and the drivers. With ICE cars a lot of it is fake, the engine note comes through the stereo and only one of those big fat exhaust pipes is connected up, the rest mere decoration.

So what if we add in a manual style gear box and fake clutch pedal to an all electric car so that any of the old-fashioned petrol cars can be simulated? With active suspension the full stall experience can be added too. Even the handbrake could be faked for 'handbrake turns'.

For a 'track day' you could choose between many retro 'super-cars' and 'drive' them without the inconvenience of having to get in them or pay the repair bill for crashing the original 'antique'.

In reality, whilst the 'driver' is having great fun thinking he is experiencing what grand-dad's noisy car was like, the car can be driving itself, much like how a horse gives the impression that steering input is needed but is okay on autopilot.

One of the original ICE cars had reins and a lever brake, to accommodate new drivers accustomed to horses!

This is the difference between physical limitation and artificial limitation. I’m not sure why people would care if you can make the latter look like the former. Infact you can tweak rules easily as the league evolve

Quite an optimistic take on the situation, especially considering (from the article): the racing engineers are having trouble with the car's battery management software. Because the Model S doesn't know that it's a race car ... it starts to shut the battery down when it detects excess heat in the pack.

Right now a Tesla on a track should be good in a 1/4 mile drag race, but is pretty much a joke for any serious number of laps. Here's a Car and Driver effort that found "by the exit of Snake, about 40 seconds into the lap, the 5010-pound P85D entered a reduced power mode (roughly half of the max)"[1]. The Tesla wound up finishing the lap with the same time as a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.


Which is exactly why a racing series is needed. Where would ICE cars be if it wasn't for the billions poured into rally/race teams over the years driving R&D and steering people towards the most capable touring car.

I almost thought for a second that it would be an all self-driving Tesla race. How cool would that be! I personally would trust way more self driving cars when they reach that level of awesomeness. Not to say that I wouldn’t happily for self-driving car immediately.

Well there's Roborace https://roborace.com

Its funny that they're doing this with full-scale vehicles. I think a smaller scale would be more accessible to smaller and therefore more teams. It would also mean that a team could take more risks - imagine an 'unlimited' class that just specifies max dimensions and weight (and maybe allowed power source). That would be fun to watch I think.

For smaller scale self-driving, checkout https://diyrobocars.com/

After the steroid controversy I want to see an unlimited robot baseball league where anything goes but keep the equipment (bat, ball, bases) the same.

Now I imagined that, since the first human-like robots are expected to be "self-driving" sex toys, there will be endless awkward situations emerging from in-field software failures.

I run http://selfracingcars.com/ - we are trying!

a neutral question (honest question): Isen't the best part of a race show the sounds? I honestly don't know how a race sounds with electric cars but I imagine it to be quite different.

Not for me. I have a Tesla and I love it being silent most of the time(it is only dangerous and you have to be careful around schools and urban areas in general).

I feel the thermal engine motor noises so wasteful and disgusting. Going to wild nature and watching all animals flee because of stupid kids with their quads making unnecessary noise over 100 decibels makes me desire to punch those guys in the face.

The only time I went to F1 when I was a kid the sound was so high that you could feel it even with your hands on your ears. I found it painful and tacky.

I am engineer myself, and I see all this sound as waste energy that does not go to move the car. Barking dog never bites. All talk, no action.

No need to imagine Formula E has been going on for a few seasons now. The engine sounds are gone and you can now hear tire and braking sounds. It's different and interesting in its own right.

Yes. I think that has been a complaint about recent F1 seasons. Even non electric cars make much less real engine noise than the past which is why modern road cars synthesize and augment the engine sound.

I don't know if this would be more ridiculous on a pure electric.

You can make your own sounds if you want :)

But on the other hand electric vehicles can have phenomenal acceleration and braking capabilities, and that would perhaps make races more frenetic.

Phenomenal breaking? On a Tesla? Have you driven one on a track? The breaks that come with it are utter garbage compared to its weight class.

While I haven't driven a Tesla, does not the regenerative braking in Electric cars offer more accurate torque control during braking?

Feel free to correct me since I'm not that familiar with Tesla, regenerative braking is more like engine braking rather than "pedal" braking. As in, while you coast, there's negative torque against driving axle which charges battery.

It's rather useless in racing situation. You want 4-wheel braking then, this may throw off your balance. I believe regenerative braking is not very effective when compared to full-blown racing brakes as well. It's great when you're stopping at traffic light from far away, but not when you brake hard.

On top of that, this is not limited to electric cars. Some regular cars have it too. For example non-e Golfs got it.

Theoretically, regenerative breaking has a torque that increases linearly with the car speed. So it should be a great fit for racing cars.

That said, there are many practical limitations that may apply.

Do you want linear braking torque though? Progressive (more speed-more torque) braking may help to brake to exact spot and avoid lockup.

As you brake, car dives in, taking force off rear wheels. With linear braking, it may be too easy to lock them up. Which is especially dangerous if you're still braking when entering the corner.

"Torque increases linearly with speed" means "more speed more torque".

The "linear braking torque" you are talking about seems to be a completely unrelated concept referring to how the brakes react to inputs from the pedal. A braking system can have both of those, none, or any single one.

Formula cars use regenerative breaking that isn’t an issue.

The problem with the Tesla is that the suspension, steering, breaks etc. aren’t exactly sport class and that it weighs more than a Ford F-150 pickup.....

Good point. I was thinking regular street class regenerative braking might be an issue in sports. It'd be interesting to see if F1 is doing anything to compensate harder braking on rear axle.

After all, front brakes do need more power. Otherwise rear wheels are easy to lock out. ABS would kick in reducing regenerative braking. I guess they'd need much stronger front brakes and have regenerative braking kick in progressively with how the brake pedal is applied?

Of course, they could do 4-wheel regenerative braking even with one driving axle.. But that'd be another can of worms.

I'd love to read full paper [0]. Looks like they're looking into this exact problem.

[0] http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/4077342/?tp=&arnumber=40...

The street class is the problem for the Tesla and not just for the regenerative breaks but even the normal ones.

I would say that racing in a Tesla is like racing in a Ford F-150 hauling a working jet engine in the back with the breaks and suspension of a Ford Mondeo.

No, not on a Tesla it can go fast in a straight line until you hit the power limit and your battery overheats but taking a corner in a Tesla at track speeds is well good luck the handling and breaking on a Tesla isn’t anywhere near any sport car or a luxury car of a similar price.

A Tesla weighs about 50-75% more than a BMW M3/Alpina or a Maclaren 650 and the suspension, breaking and handling on those is much much better.

But modern ones sound all the same

Imho the main race will be against the car's DRM.

Tesla Racing Circuit ideas for increasing power discharge rate, reducing heat, and reducing build weight:

Hemp supercapacitors (similar power density as graphene supercapacitors and li-ion, lower cost than graphene)

Active cooling. Modified passive cooling.

Biocomposite frame and panels (stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum (George Washington Carver))

> Biocomposite frame and panels (stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum (George Washington Carver))

"Soybean Car" (1941) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean_car

Hopefully teams can get enough spare parts to keep cars on the track. It will be a good step for Tesla.

I saw a Tesla at a NHRA drag last November against a souped-up Mustang and it was decisively beaten. Was a bit disappointed, didn’t even do better off the line.

Not a great comparison as it looked completely stock, but still expected more somehow.

Don't be disappointed. See it as the benefit of competition.

Competition helps you avoid deceiving yourself. Your competitors set the benchmark and you're either better than the rest or you're not. Once you have a target to aim at you can refine and improve until you match and then beat the rest.

And then they will use you as the new benchmark to beat.

I wonder what's possible in the way of souping up a Tesla Roadster.

I imagine it would be possible to chop out the computer and roll your own, change some suspension components and tyres.

I suppose you could remove the electric motor and put in a different one. Add or remove battery capacity.

Internal combustion engines must be orders of magnitude more customisable.

Here's a video where they strip the Tesla of almost everything to make it faster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARzujfRiQ3c

I think that's just about all you can do to improve on it, though.

Remove weight, ditch seat cushions etc

Probably doesn’t need the full battery pack for the quarter mile either.

Yes, you do, because the discharge rate is proportional to the size of the battery. Halve the battery, slow the car.

If we are speaking only seconds on max power, ultracapacitors will do a whole lot better job than batteries.

Depends how it is wired.

How souped up are we talking..?

Driver of the Tesla might have been inadequate, anecdotes and many videos online show it (and even electric mopeds against some pretty fast stuff!), at minimum, taking the early lead, as you indicated.

Very, just looked at the video and it's front wheels came off the ground.

The length of the race is important too, even against a standard Porsche GT3 the Porsche is ahead by 125mph or so which is fast 1/4 mile trap speed.

so... if they have no official support or solution to the commonly maligned issue with driving tesla cars on a track (overheating), how will they be racing them? racing such a computer-controlled car without a good way to interface with them seems untenable.

Race cars are always heavily modified (compared to the road going versions). They must have upgraded the cooling system to allow for sustained high loads.

Depending on the car, not as much as you'd think.

My mechanic has been a mechanic for both IMSA and World Cup Challenge teams, and he went over some of the changes that are seen from road-going versions of what he normally works on (Porsches). Things like heat exchangers have better conductive materials, coolant lines will make multiple passes instead of a single pass, and there are more lines (to increase the surface area of the line), packed in more densely. Coolants used are optimized for a specific temperature range, since they don't have to deal with global conditions of a road car all over the world.

More complex machining for passive cooling (heatsinks) of transaxles, higher airflow towards brake rotors (with specific shield designs, part of which are backed out to catch more air).

The biggest change? Fewer fans, and only as many as required, as they inhibit airflow. Convection does the job well enough as race cars aren't sitting in traffic in hot climates, and aren't sitting around long enough to heat soak from being stationary (but are why the pit crews have blowers). As much aero design goes into routing air for maximizing cooling as there is for creating downforce.


Formula 1 and WEC (which are more like ground aircraft than anything resembling a road car) are a different story though. Things like the intercoolers for turbochargers are absurdly complex. You're talking four passes through the intercooler, and lines that are basically long surgical needles, with ~13000 packed into each intercooler. All hand built, all very expensive.

So how much exactly energy is lost to battery heating in Tesla? Quite a lot if a liquid cooling system is unable to deal with the heat?

not really, but it depends on the class. A gt3cup car has a boatload of changes. Race-built engines, different suspension, etc. gt4s are closer to the stock car. TC even more so.

I was surprised to learn about the 2018 Dodge Demon's SRT power chiller. It uses the car's refrigerant to cool down the supercharger. On race day you actually have to turn off your AC. The whole car is insane, especially considering that it is street legal and may of its owners will be using it as a daily driver.

That's an idea that dates back quite a ways. Ford had a prototype F150 Lightning that used A/C to temporarily cool down the intercooler and gain something like 30-50 horsepower for around 30 seconds at a time. Unfortunately Ford elected instead to just kill the Lightning altogether at that point.

Great idea, surprised I haven't seen this as a street legal mod.

You would only need to sandwich the intercooler between the hot and cold heat exchangers with a (fairly powerful) automotive refrigerant pump connect to them. The cold heat exchanger would go in front of the intercooler.

I'm going to start talking about this to some enthusiasts I know and see if I can convince one of them to do it.

>> Great idea, surprised I haven't seen this as a street legal mod.

It was a homebrew hack by people in the Honda Civic / del Sol community decades ago, I recall it fondly.

How many owners are going to be swapping between the drag radials/skinny front wheels and daily driver tires? Or willing to deal with the mileage?

That's nothing new, my Jaguar XJ12 from '84 uses it's AC to cool down the fuel in the return line.

They will also need to take off a lot of weight from P100D's 4,941 lbs to make it worthwhile. Even they can reduce the weight by 1000 lbs, it'll still be very heavy... It's a luxury car with a powerful engine - not exactly what you'd want for racing.

It won't be the first grand touring race series by a long shot. Racing series are always contrived, with rules to make cars equal and most cars ended up almost 0% like the factory model.

They'll just create weight classes as they expand beyond the Model S. People are very happy to race heavy vehicles[1].


There are additional issues due to the heavy weight on the track - the brakes and the tires will get used up much faster for example.

.. and on a circuit... https://youtu.be/6AqeqeSdH94?t=2m31s

One of the points of racing is to find out creative solutions to such engineering problems, which may later filter down to road vehicles. Example of technologies which had their origin in formula 1 include traction control, KERS, automated manual transmissions.

>racing such a computer-controlled car without a good way to interface with them seems untenable.

Seems like a nice challenge for the hacking community, and again racing might provide the right narrow focus and motivation to get the job done.

Awesome! I'm hoping to see Teslas in iRacing soon, would be highly interesting. :)

nice autoplay video that plays over the embedded youtube video creating 2 live audio tracks which actually didn't sound wrong together...

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