While the World Rally Championship is switching to hybrid engines for the 2022 season, rally driver Hayden Paddon and a team of researchers are about to do WRC one better. They’re coming out with a Hyundai Kona EV rally car in 2020, a vehicle that will be able to complete a full-length event solely on electric power.
Paddon has teamed up with Hyundai New Zealand, the University of Canterbury, and the Stohl Advanced Research and Development team to develop an electric vehicle that should be ready to begin testing in April 2020, according to Motorsport.com.
Here’s more from Motorsport:
“The car’s going to be a showstopper in terms of performance,” said Paddon at the launch of Paddon Rallysport’s Alternative Energy Motorsport Division at its home in Central Otago, New Zealand.
Paddon continued: “Alternative energy powerplants are evolving very quickly in the consumer-focused car sector, but the same developments are not as widespread in motorsport and certainly not in rallying.
“Not unlike most motorsport enthusiasts and their first impressions of the concept, I thought: “Not EV!” But the more I thought about it, the more potential I could see to align top-tier rallying with the technology aims of major vehicle manufacturers.”
Paddon raises a good point: people in racing just aren’t as keen on EVs as you standard auto manufacturer. It’s been a slow process, but all-electric series like Formula E, MotoE, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, and the upcoming World Rallycross Series (not to mention the kickass Volkswagen ID.R going out and crushing one record after another) have shown that there is a growing interest.
Paddon also noted that there are unique challenges regarding EV tech that you don’t necessarily have to think about with an ICE car:
From some of the EV technology that already exists, performance is already there – some cars have up to 1000bhp. It’s how you harness that performance for rallying, for example with torque vectoring for gravel or low-grip situations and the range needed to complete a full day’s rallying.
[EV] Rallying opens up more challenges compared to circuit racing in terms of range, charging systems and sound. When we find solutions for these elements, many will be applicable to the general road user and EV car owner.
(Yes, race fans. They are working on making sure the car still sounds cool, don’t worry.)
The goal is to run the Kona EV rally car in New Zealand’s 2020 rally events as a way to refine development and ensure it will be competitive. A second prototype will then ideally be introduced in 2021. That vehicle will have an extended range and may possibly be entered in international events.
It’s an awesome initiative from Paddon and the developers who have signed on for this project. While there aren’t currently any plans for EV-powered cars to make their debut in WRC proper, it would make sense that this development would be considered after the swap to hybrid engines in 2022.