The New Hot Rodders – EV Cars in Racing

Electric Vehicles, a topic so controversial in our industry that you’d think they would destroy the planet the moment everyone got one. A topic so hard to consider covering that I’m pretty sure the comments section is going to be rampant with people who can’t read past the headline.

So, before you rush down to the comments section to crucify me as if I’m Socrates and find me guilty of the automotive equivalent of impiety, hear me out on this. Because, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are such a strange thing to vilify to the extent many do on Facebook. They don’t really deserve it and – if you just allow yourself to open your horizons just a little – you’ll find that you’re in the early stages of a new era of hot rodding. I have proof with three EVs and their drivers from the OUSCI.

You Blasphemer

I’m going to admit right now that I am a fan of EVs. It comes from my love of Remote-Control cars when I was a kid and continued to be a bigger kid later in life playing around with them. I also love learning something new, learning about something I didn’t before. There’s a whole lot of new in EVs – from how to drive them on a race track to getting better performance from them – and I love being able to nerd out talking about them and the future that they come with. Finally, I do like that idea of full torque at zero-RPM and the EV motors (also called a “traction motor”) very flat and consistent torque curve.

You notice that I don’t mention anything about it being environmentally friendly. EVs are friendlier, but there are still some pollution issues that need to be addressed before they fully become zero-emissions. However, I fully believe that anything that requires energy will never truly be “zero-emissions.” To give is to take, to take is to give. To get energy, we must take it from something else. To use energy, we must put something back in its place. We eat plants and animals from the Earth and use that to give ourselves energy and that becomes sewage. We’ll never have “free” or even fully “clean” energy. It’ll just be cleaner than what we had before.



A lot of the hate EVs get is unwarranted or even undeserved. It’s mostly because those who do typically champion them are extreme environmentalists. People who demand you get out of your car this instant and get into an EV or public transportation without a plan on how to make it work. Even people who go so far as to say Elon Musk, the man who created Tesla, didn’t give enough with the government loan used to get Tesla off the ground.

A loan he not only paid back but paid with interest, proved EVs can fit in a daily life, opened the patents so other manufacturers could produce EVs, and created the interest we see from people today in such a way that GM, Ford and even Porsche are pushing for their own Tesla fighters.It’s unfortunate that it’s people like that are who EVs get associated with. They shouldn’t and instead should be looked at as a viable future so that we can continue our love of the automobile. Even with hot rods and classic cars, there are manufacturers who are trying to allow you to ensure a cleaner future with the cars and trucks you loved in your youth.

It’s unfortunate that it’s people like that are who EVs get associated with. They shouldn’t and instead should be looked at as a viable future so that we can continue our love of the automobile. Even with hot rods and classic cars, there are manufacturers who are trying to allow you to ensure a cleaner future with the cars and trucks you loved in your youth.


The very first thing you’ll hear from anyone who wants to thump their ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) bible at you is that there is no engine noise. You’ll hate driving an EV because you can’t hear an engine because there isn’t one. Well, according to Dr. Karen “Dr. Mom” Thomas – who owns not only a 2018 Fire Aide Tesla Model X P100D but also a 1995 Jaguar XJ-6 – argues that you get over it as soon as you drive it. “I’m going to go ahead and tell you,” she told me while we were at Shelby American in Las Vegas, “I’m a Glasspacks girl and I like to hear a good exhaust but, boy, you accelerate, and you don’t miss that.”


Talking with Matthew Scott, driver of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq EV and Cooling Systems R&D Engineer at Hyundai, “I love to hear that Corvette noise just as much as any other guy,” he said to me while one was moving to its parking space at the end of the OUSCI, “but, electric cars are the future of what we’re going to drive on the street.” Once it parked, he continued, “I’ll mention something I’ve said before: all we’re doing is changing the powertrain. Once you get over the fact its an electric car, all the same tricks carry over with the suspension, tires, brakes; its all the stuff that’s going to make you go fast. It’s still a lot of fun and, honestly, a little less maintenance.”

Vernon Jolly, who not only drives a Chevrolet Spark EV in the OUSCI but also a driver of a twin-turbo Ford Mustang that puts 1200-horsepower to the wheels, “I think EV is the future. I’ve got a Factory Five Cobra, that twin-turbo Mustang, a C7 Corvette, and championship winning Miatas, I’ve got a ChumpCar and these (EVs) are the future.”


Not Just In A Straight Line

EVs may not make a rumble as they pass by you, but their soul is in their low-down power and driving ability. When you consider that the Model X that Dr. Thomas is driving weighs around 5,531-pounds and can turn in a single lap time at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Proving Grounds of 2:08.147, it’s pretty incredible what it’s capable of. To put that in perspective, a 2009 Nissan 370Z Sport in the GTS class was nearly 8-seconds slower while Dr. Karen was about 24.981-seconds slower than the fastest time (a 1:43.166 in the Dodge Viper driven by Austin Barnes) during the Falken Tire Hot Laps.

Meanwhile, Matthew and the Ioniq EV were only 14.693-seconds slower than that fastest time. His 1:57.859 was the fastest time for the Hyundai and with an average of about 1:57.868 between the fastest time and the slowest, he would have just been above that. While his 66th place finish out of 79 cars in the Hot Laps doesn’t quite do what’s been accomplished justice, he did finish ahead of some cars we’d normally accept as fast like a 2006 Ford Mustang, a 2005 Honda S2000, a 1987 Buick Grand National and a 2009 Nissan 370Z. He was also able to drive 10 laps in four sessions, which might not sound like a lot, but it was six more than Andrew Barnes drove. However, the issue isn’t with the battery lasting multiple sessions. It’s the heat.

It’s Not Range Anxiety

The range is the least worry of the Tesla and the Hyundai, unlike the Spark EV which still has its 19-kWh battery. For those three, though, the common enemy is heat. Heat in the battery while charging, driving hard, and heat in the motor when it’s used at its full potential. The Tesla and the Hyundai have plenty of power when they come off track, usually within 75- to 80-percent charge left. They have nearly more than enough power to last a full day of time trial racing like this. They just get too hot.

Isn’t It Ioniq?

However, the technology continues to get better and, for Matthew and Hyundai, the USCA have been their test bed for about two years now. The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq started out as a showroom floor car that Hyundai R&D turned into a project. The goal is to find the best way to make a performance EV. “We’ve made quite a few changes to make it go fast,” he said, “and just see what it takes to make it a high-performance car.” After the first year, a motor swap from the 85-kW (155-horsepower) Ioniq motor to their SUV 150-kW (201-horsepower) motor – the same one that’s going to be used in the upcoming Kona EV. Yes, it’s possible to do a motor swap with an EV and that should get you excited when you think about it.

After that, though, their first challenge was heat as the battery was not only used in a high-performance environment but with a more powerful motor. Their solution was to duct the HVAC system into the battery pack inlet to cool it. “When we are charging the battery,” says Matthew, “we are also cooling the battery.” Then fans were added to the rear of the car to pull more air through the battery, so the vents on the rear bumper are there for a purpose. They finally added more busbars to the battery pack to better distribute the heat.

It Gets The Same Problems as Any High-Powered FWD

With that done, Matthew was able to push the motor harder until traction became an issue. To fix that, a Limited-Slip Differential (LSD) was added to prevent the inside tire in corners from slipping. This also forces torque to the wheel with more traction and maintain that balance, rather than let the one with the least traction slip on straight-line acceleration. Once that was finished, heat once again became the problem but now the motor was overheating and is the solution they are working now.

Are EVs Really The Future?

From a daily driving stand point, even the Spark’s 80- to 100-mile range is enough for the average person. Most people average about 45- to 55-miles in single-way commuting from home to work. While at either place, you can charge the battery and get back home with range to spare. Batteries also continue to not only increase in capacity with 220- to 250-miles worth of battery volume becoming normal for commuter cars. The Model 3 can have a range of up to 310-miles, that’s just 5-miles short of the Model S maximum range. Most midsize ICE cars that aren’t hybrid or diesel get about that much range for a full tank of fuel.

Do You Buy The Expensive Gas At the Race Track?

Fast chargers are getting faster, too. However, the issue they all fight is what I mentioned earlier with heat. The current rate of a level-three 220-volt charger is about 10- to 20-minutes for 80-percent charge EVs that can use them. To note, the Ioniq was using a level-three charger with a rented diesel generator at OUSCI. After reading that, you’re probably saying “Ah-ha! I have your argument now!”

However, if you think about it, how do you normally source fuel at the track to begin with? You typically try to bring it with you. Even Vernon brought his own gas-powered Honda generator to recharge his Spark EV between runs when he needed it. So long as she had access to 240-volt power, the Tesla Model X of Dr. Karen was able to fast charge her Model X as well. The Hyundai team were even willing to allow her to use their generator, if she needed it.

Also, I had a whole section on the issues with EVs, subsidies, and the lot, but that’s better for a separate article coming out later this week. Trust me, it’s for the better considering it was already over 1200 words, I wasn’t done and was breaching off-topic conversation.

ICE isn’t Melting Away

I think what most detractors of EVs need to consider is that their hot rods and engines aren’t going away anytime soon. Most likely, they never will. More than likely, they will have to fuel it from another source that’s equivalent to gasoline. Look at the horse, it hasn’t gone away, we just don’t use them for farming or hauling anymore. People still ride them, enjoy their ownership while using ICE powered equipment that replaced them.

Carburetors are the same way even with the prevalence of fuel injection and their reduced cost of entry. Fuel burning vehicles won’t go away and most likely never will so long as there is a niche to fill.The biggest thing is just don’t fear the future with EVs. These cars aren’t your enemy nor are many of their owners. Many of them are just like me and know the caveats of their ownership and the reality of their cleanliness.

They just want an awesome car that just happens to be powered in a different way. They want to be on that bleeding edge like the original hot rodders. Just like those originals and they take enjoyment of trying to tinker with their ride to make it faster, look cooler, or just make it function how they want it to. How can you honestly hate someone who has the same passion as you, but happens to like a different way of powering their ride? Change is hard, the future is always cloudy, but it doesn’t mean you should hate either just because you don’t understand them.

If this article doesn’t change you mind on EVs, that’s ok. Not everyone likes the same thing and shouldn’t. I will agree that if you don’t want to own an EV, you shouldn’t be forced. You should also have the same respect for those that do want to own EVs.

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Justin Banner

Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.

2 thoughts on “The New Hot Rodders – EV Cars in Racing

  1. Interesting write up with some interesting facts that I didn’t know prior to reading.

    Not at all against EV’s, except for those who claim the purpose of purchasing was purely for environmental reasons – as you stated. I’ve just around to accepting an automatic as my daily driver, so I’m just starting to come around to perhaps my next daily driver would be an EV. I haven’t quite come around on my fun car being an EV. This, however, may change if someone would figure out a way to keep the manual transmission in an EV. Yes, yes, yes….I know about the engineering side of EV’s and I understand the performance side of EV’s (and SMG, DSG, etc. type transmissions) but I want involvement.

    As a person who drives A LOT, I do have range anxiety. I see people with EV’s park at charging stations and simply leave them there while they go shopping or sometimes get picked up by friends while their cars get charged. I get nervous that I may have to wait hours or even get stranded. As for now, I’ll stick to my diesel (daily driver).

    1. Hey, Charles, thanks for commenting! In the home-built market, there are people who have retained their manual transmission when doing an EV conversion. They use a adapter shaft between the motor output and the input shaft of the transmission. Since you can’t kill stall a motor – you can stall it when too much torque is applied in the opposite direction – you don’t have to use a clutch to keep it running.

      I, and many others, theorize that a manual transmission or a transmission in general is still a way to increase the range of a battery pack. My theory is that, instead of gearing for a typical torque curve of an ICE, the gearing should instead be matched to a top speed. Start off with a 1.5 or 1.25:1 first gear and final gear should be something between 0.7 to 0.5:1. Why haven’t manufacturers done it yet? Well, its mostly the simplicity of a motor and a single gear but Tesla did try a two-speed transmission in the original Roadster. They found it wasn’t strong enough. So, that might be the current limiting factor rather than simplicity or is the combination of the two.

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