The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (also known as the ‘Race to the Clouds’) in Colorado, USA, is a legendary event which has a history dating back to 1916. It’s the second oldest motor racing event in the country and since the 1980s, it has seen a lot of international participation. Powerful Group B rallycars like the Peugeot 205 T16 and Audi Quattro Sport entered the event after they were banned from the WRC and established new records with their high speeds.
More recently, however, as the industry has been moving towards electric cars, some companies have also entered powerful electrically-powered machines which have shown that the future powerplant can provide high performance too.
For the 2018 event which will be run next June, Volkswagen is developing an all-electric car with the aim of setting a new record for electric cars at the finish line which is 4,300 metres above sea level. The new motorsport project is part of Volkswagen’s process of transforming itself into the leading producer of electric vehicles. By 2025, the Volkswagen brand plans to offer no less than 23 models powered by electricity.
“The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is one of the world’s most renowned car races. It poses an enormous challenge and is therefore excellently suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies,” explained Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board responsible for Development. “Our electric race car will be equipped with innovative battery and drive technology. The extreme stress test on Pikes Peak will give us important findings that will benefit future development, and it will showcase our products and their technologies.”
The vehicle is being developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in close cooperation with the Technical Development. “The race on Pikes Peak is a new beginning for us. We are developing an all-electric race vehicle for the first time,” said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “The project is also an important milestone in our new motorsport orientation. Our team is literally electrified about taking on this incredible challenge.” Volkswagen Motorsport last participated in the Pikes Peak mountain race in 1987 with a spectacular twin-engined Golf which barely missed finishing. “It is high time for a rematch.”
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is almost 20 kms long and climbs 1,440 metres to the summit. The drivers race through some 150 corners and before 2011, the surface was gravel so there was spectacular drifting around turns… occasionally some cars would leave the road too. After 2011, the road was surfaced and speeds began to increase with better grip.
In 2013, using a Peugeot 208 T16, Sebastian Loeb reached the top in 8 minutes 13.9 seconds which remains the overall record. In the electric car class, Rhys Millen holds the record time of 8 minutes 57.1 seconds driving a modified machine. Volkswagen aims to set quicker times and as the gap between the fastest electric car and the fastest petrol-engined car is less than a minute, it is possible that next year’s event may see an electric car become the fastest car overall.