A little over a year ago the 24 Hours of Lemons introduced a $50,000 prize for the first team to win one of the series’ many races on full electric power. In order to make such a thing even remotely possible, the series exempted the cost of EV powertrains from its series-wide $500 budget cap. Thus far only two teams have even attempted to race EVs in Lemons, but progress is being made and it gives me all kinds of fuzzy feelings inside.
The better of the two electric lemons is this Plymouth Horizon TC3/Dodge Omni 024-based Jet Electrica 007 operated by Team Duff Beer. The team first ran this car with some deep-cycle RV batteries chucked in the back hatch of the car, hot-swapping batteries during the race.
It worked, but not great. Since then the team has ditched the RV batteries for a set of Chevrolet Volt batteries on custom built swappable racks. Of course, the swap still requires an engine hoist to move one out and move the other in, so it’s not exactly a quick proposition.
It doesn’t seem like Team Duff Beer is going to be winning that big cash prize any time soon, as it isn’t anywhere close to winning a Lemons race overall. If the team can pump up the power output a bit and make battery swaps quicker and easier than filling up a front running gas car then it might have a chance. Maybe.
I’ve done a little bit of thinking about this and I think I’ve come up with a good solution without resorting to a big dollar build. Get a base car that is cheap, something relatively lightweight and sporty with plenty of aftermarket support and knowhow, like perhaps a Toyota Celica or an early 1990s Honda Civic. Grab the CVT and integral electric motor from a XW20 Toyota Prius from the junkyard for a bill or two. That motor is good for 67 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for a winning Lemons car. Build at least three swappable racks of LiPo batteries generally used for RC planes and the like. Build a swapping mechanism that allows these racks to slide into the car like cartridges and facilitate a sub-30 second refill.
It isn’t going to be easy to rise to the $50,000 challenge, but if anyone is going to figure out how to make an electric racing series work on a grassroots level, it’s going to be the ridiculous geniuses in the Lemons paddock. This is an excellent start.