Volkswagen goes electric for the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Image: Noah Glynn
Alex Stockwell

Volkswagen is taking on the iconic Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race this year with a beast of a custom electric racecar

In a move that Volkswagen hopes will simultaneously cement its electric credentials while helping to put Dieselgate further behind it, the German automaker is revving up for this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The vehicle, named I.D. R, was designed from the ground up specifically for the picturesque course, and judging by the stats so far, it could very well be a new record holder.

The PPIHC race has been a challenging testbed for vehicle manufactures for much of its 100-year history. Drivers begin at the bottom of the 12.4-mile course that climbs 4,720 vertical-feet through 156 winding corners to the lofty finish line at the summit, some 14,000 feet above sea level.

Volkswagen announced late last year that it would be taking on the challenge again for the first time in 31 years, and this is the first time the company’s racing division has turned its attention to electric vehicles. The current record is 8 minutes and 13 seconds set by a modified Peugeot 208 back in 2013, but the record for an EV came reasonably close in 2016 with a time of 8:57:11.

Both of these records could very well be broken by VW as the I.D. R has an absolute hood-load of torque to play with.

Volkswagen’s EV could be a record breaker in the “race to the clouds”

A new record could be made come June 24 when VW take to the stunningly beautiful Colorado mountain course. In recent years, electric cars have become a popular choice at Pikes Peak as the thin air at high altitude suits electric motors better as they don’t require the same intake as combustion engines.

In the run-up to the event VW hasn’t divulged too much about the car’s exact spec sheet, but we do know that the 2,500lb lightweight racer features dual electric engines that are capable of churning out 680 hp of power, with an eye-watering 479lb-ft of torque.

The vehicle can supposedly smash 0-60 in 2.25 seconds, making it, on paper at least, faster than a Formula 1, or Formula E car, and is slightly quicker off the mark than a Model S launching in Ludicrous mode.

The comparison to the Tesla is a little bit unfair, however, as, in order for the Model S to hit 60 in 2.3 seconds, certain conditions have to be met, and it can only hit that speed off the line. The Model S also features software that limits the number of times it’s able to launch at that speed, whilst the VW can grip the road and accelerate out of corners, again and again.

VW claims that its electric racer is “an exercise in balancing weight and electrical energy capacity,” and some innovative tweaks and designs help demonstrate the potential for EV in the future of performance and endurance motorsports.

One particularly clever feature is that the car’s electric motors act as a generator during braking, recapturing lost energy and feeding it back into the lithium-ion batteries.

Yet, as the battle for EV performance supremacy continues, this kind of publicity is coming at a time when VW is looking to claw back the company’s image after their recent bout of shady practices.

VW left red-faced after that whole diesel controversy

The last year or so hasn’t been good for Volkswagen as the company has been involved a number of damaging and controversial scandals, including notoriously lying about their vehicles diesel emissions, and even getting caught out blasting monkeys in the face with diesel fumes.

Maybe victory at the race at Pikes Peak will help the company forget their nefarious past and look to the future with their upcoming range of electric cars. And it’s looking promising as aspects of the technology found in the I.D. R may even feature under the hood of the new concept cars landing at dealerships in 2020.

Let’s hope the company can stay out of trouble until then.

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