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Electric vehicle racing set to prosper and take over

By Barry He | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-11-30 11:13
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China is the largest market for electric vehicles (EVs) in the world. Whether it be mopeds, cars or even trucks, EVs are becoming part of everyday life.

Now, these modes of transport are entering the exciting realm of racing. Next year, the first-ever International Electric Scooter Championship will take place in various locations across the world. Conventionally limited to speeds of around 30 kph, these racing scooters with batteries the size of a forearm can reach up to 100 kph, with professional riders wearing full protective gear.

Scooters, such as the S1-X produced by YCOM, a motorsports technology specialist, may roughly resemble a child's scooter in form, but are a world away even from the adult electric versions commercially available and seen in cities around the world.

The McLaren of the EV world, the S1-X has a carbon fibre chassis and contains within its body a 1.5 kilowatt hour battery, enough to power everything in a small home. The "eSkootr Championships" are one of many EV racing organizations that are popping up around the world. Covering the diverse world of EVs from small scooters up to sports utilities, promotions such as the Extreme E racing series will offer off-road events in large electric SUVs. Others, such as SuperCharge, will see EV's tearing through city streets, bringing the sport to a new urban generation.

China has a long and proud history of motorsport racing, and is the home of the famous Shanghai International Circuit, used for Formula 1 racing. Existing racing fans will be treated to the new and imaginative challenges that handling EV vehicles bring.

Driving racing-grade e-scooters is particularly tough on the lower body as riders have to stand. Navigating hard turns while in this position may require stabilizing strength and levels of athleticism not seen in traditional motorsports. EVs also tend to have a slightly different weight distribution to their petrol counterparts because of their heavy batteries.

Electric motors also emit much less noise than traditional petrol engines. Professional drivers tend to rely upon engine sounds to judge how a vehicle is handling; whether it be wheel spinning, braking or accelerating, drivers are effectively losing a sense when driving electrically. How this will affect drivers, their tactics and how they train remains to be seen. As battery capacity technology continues to improve, the evolution of newer models of EVs will continue to offer fresh challenges and keep the sport dynamic.

E-racing has some significant backers from the old world of petrol motor racing. Notably, Lewis Hamilton, winner of seven F1 world titles, has backed the aforementioned E-Extreme championships. Taking place in exotic remote settings across the world, such competitions place zero-emission vehicles in areas of natural beauty that may only be protected if we all switch to driving something more environmentally friendly. Leading by example is an important practice in the fight against climate change, and demonstrating that racing cars at an elite level can be electric will help transition such technologies into mainstream adoption for everyday life.

Alongside the sustainability benefits, EV racing remains just as exciting as its more traditional counterparts. Machines such as the Ford Fusion 999 or Genovation GXE can reach speeds of up to 333 kmph, with the technology rapidly advancing each year.

Bringing racing into the 21st century, however, requires both thrilling speeds and an acknowledgment of the troubling environmental challenges our era brings, and future EV championships hope to do just that.

Barry He is a London-based columnist for China Daily.

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