High Voltage Meets High Altitude
Chasing The Pikes Peak EV Record

On June 26th, competitors from around the world will begin their ascent at the world famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The Colorado mountain will be no stranger to Speedhunters regular readers and the majority of motorsport fans around the world – it’s the ultimate hill climb event. 2016 will see the 100th anniversary of the first event to run at Pikes Peak, so it’s going to be that bit more special this year. Especially as Hankook is planning another record breaking run…


Of course, we’ll be there again, but this year we’re going to have a close eye on one Rhys Millen. You know Rhys, right? The Kiwi with an illustrious motorsport career path that includes rallying, drifting, rallycross and previous record breaking runs up Pikes Peak in the past. Why do we want to give Rhys close attention? After setting a new EV record in 2015 and winning the event outright, he’s looking to improve upon last year’s time with an eye to ultimately becoming the first driver to break the nine-minute barrier in an electric vehicle. Specifically, in the Drive eO PP100.


The last 12 months have seen electric vehicles grab more and more of my attention, and I’m sure I’m not alone. EV technology is advancing so rapidly now, that it’s only a matter of time before hybrids and all-electric vehicles will rule the roost, so to speak. It’s already evident in modern hypercars like the Porsche 918 and has even trickled down into more affordable machinery, like Volkswagen’s Golf GTE. Electric power is clearly the way forward.


Being a dedicated race car with the sole task of conquering Pikes Peak, the PP100 is a fascinating piece of hardware.


Because it’s such new technology though, there’s also quite a lot of consideration and thought that has to go into a project like this. There’s not exactly a proven formula for success to follow when you’re the one trying blaze that new trail. Even the simplest of things can throw up issues which require far more time and ingenuity to resolve than a team would probably like. In saying that though, I’m sure they very much welcome the challenge.


There are parts of the car that we all are likely familiar with, as at its core is a space-frame chassis with carbon bodywork that generates massive amounts of downforce. The car is all-wheel drive, with seven YASA-400 electric motors controlled by eO’s own modules. Peak power is 1190kW (roughly the equivalent of a conventional 1595hp) with 1858ft/lbs (2520Nm) of torque, and there’s a kerb weight of just 2645lb (1200kg).


Power, weight and aerodynamic numbers are irrelevant though unless you can transfer the engine output to the ground. It’s a trait shared by every single race car on earth; regardless of how much power, technology or aero you have, everyone ultimately has to rely upon the four small contact patches of rubber connecting the car to the ground.


Developing a tire that was up to the task of propelling this unique car to – hopefully – a new record was put in the hands of Hankook.


It’s an intriguing subject and one that we often overlook when discussing the performance of any particular motor vehicle. In this case, Hankook had to design a tire to deal with the distinctive characteristics of an electric race vehicle. EVs are renowned for their huge levels of torque, which can be delivered virtually instantaneously at very low RPM.


There are also other factors too, like how performance is not affected by atmospheric conditions. Electric vehicles do not consume air so do not lose power as altitude increases, unlike their internal combustion relatives. As such, the tires need to be able to deliver comparable performance at the end of the run as they do at the beginning. because they’re still receiving the same power at all times throughout the climb.


Preparation is undoubtedly key to success at Pikes Peak, with Rhys logging as much time behind the wheel of the Drive eO PP100 as possible in advance of the event. The first test at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park was a big step forward for the redeveloped car.


“It was a very positive test and I’m confident we can turn it up even more on race day. We’re targeting a sub-nine-minute run,” Rhys said. A more recent test at Pikes Peak itself displayed more positives for the team who have their sights firmly set on another new record.


For quite some time, I viewed EV race categories as a token gesture to appease the environmentalists of this world, and to at least give the appearance that the motorsport community was seen to be doing something positive with regards to protecting the planet. I’m genuinely surprised by how fast the technology is progressing though; we’re pretty much at the point where fossil fuel race cars are now beginning to look over their shoulders for the first time. Is it time to take EVs seriously?


At an event where power loss as altitude increases is such a big issue, could EVs be the future of Pikes Peak? I’m sure the idea of electric cars tackling the mountain in relative silence will abhor some, but for those of us who are only concerned with going fast, it’s beginning to make more and more sense. In fact, it’s getting harder to argue against it. Just ask those who finished behind Rhys last year…


Writing a piece like this I find that I generally end up with more questions than I have answers for. Fortunately, there’s a bonus to this story in that we’ve managed to get Rhys Millen himself to answer questions that you might have for an upcoming Q&A post. I’m trying to hide my inner-fanboy here, but it’s a pretty amazing opportunity to speak directly to someone with such a distinguished racing career, particularly at Pikes Peak. I think this is also a good opportunity to have a discussion about the future of EVs in motorsport. Do they have a place or is their place on the road?

If you have any questions for Rhys, please post them in the comments section below and we’ll get a response to the best ones.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Photos by Louis Yio
Instagram: lusciousy

Cutting Room Floor


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Ohhhhhh, its electric....



90nissanS13@my350z It's beating fossil fuel cars and it's very fast, doesn't that count for something?


As much as I love the sound of a raw engine, electric is the future and I wish this tecnology was more present. We had fast electric cars 100 years ago..


Paddy McGrath 90nissanS13@my350z it does, it's the future.


Nice final pic in the Bonus Images section. :)


Paddy McGrath Nope.


Bro5 It is whether you guys like it or not unfortunately.


See you in the rear view mirror.


Can you ask Rhys if he's thought about an 1190kW drift car?


Do You feel nostalgic at some degree, being aware that it is a time, when EV take over fuel powered machines in competition like Pikes Peak?


The EPA is already talking about regulating racecar emissions. EV's would just do an end run around that. The dominate LMP cars at LeMans are already hybrids. The only thing holding back EV is the batteries and that is advancing at a predicable rate. Just look at the advent of battery electric drones. Light weight LiPo batteries have made that reality it's just matter of time before batteries will last long enough and charge quick enough for longer distance racing. One of the few competitive racing EV's is like the Pikes Peak example because it's such a short run.

The material graphene may be the breakthrough technology. A derivative of graphite that has already been commercially manufactured. It can be made in a one molecule thick sheet, is about 100 times as strong as steel, and is a super-conductor. A graphene battery application could be half the weight of LiPo, double or quadruple the life, and 1/5 to 1/10 the charge time. 

ICE racecars will probably continue but running on propane or alchohol, or any clean fuel. They race historics going back almost 100 years so we are never going to lose the sound of combustion or the thrill of shifting a five speed.


So much power and only 1.2t. If you put 200kg of comodities it would be one hell of megacar.


Did you set up a weight limit and then worked your way from there on how much battery capacity you can have and from there on how much power you can have? Or did you run lots of simulations and iterated your way to the best compromise?


I lived in the shadow of that mountain for about 17yrs and I never once got to see that race. When I was in school we got to go to the test and tune session where I got to see the big semi on the dyno, it was amazing how quiet that thing was


How do you feel the spirit of the race has changed over the years as it has gone from what was a rally climb into a paved climb the entire route.  Looking at this car in particular, it looks much more like a dedicated track car than a rally monster.  How have the driving dynamics changed, do you believe it is safer now or more dangerous with higher speeds?


I don't have a question but really an observation. 

Hill climb seems to be the ideal place to develop electric racing vehicles when you stop and think about it. It's a set distance so you can calculate exactly how much battery you will need and the motors and batteries (for the most part) aren't affected by altitude. 

Hopefully manufacturers realize this and we see some arms race to build a monster electric hill climb car based on a production chassis.


I live 2 hours away and went once, in 2010. At least I can say I saw it in the 'glory days' of still having dirt sections. I'm trying to finally go again this year, but my car still needs work I'm trying to squeeze in before I feel comfortable taking it on that kind of drive... really wanting to see the Gas Monkey Falcon and the NSXs.


I should be at mile nine drinking cold refreshing craft beer in race day


50 pictures of the guys on the team, no pictures of the chassis, batteries, motors?


I guess they are trying to keep that all under wraps as much as possible, there will be other teams running EVs in competition


Question for Rhys - what was the budget for this project? And how does that break down between chassis and EV power train?


CyborgGT that Gas Monkey falcon was stored right next to where my dad works, he managed to snap a couple photos with it. Overall I am not against seeing these electric cars running the Hillclimb. Personally, I want to see more of the racing semis.


I would like to know what Rhys was thinking and how did he come to a decision to jump on board with a as very small Latvian family owned team (in comparison to other factory teams) and race their car towards the clouds?
I have been following the Drive eO builds since they raced electric OsCar in Dakar and with the Pikes Peak project it was clear they need experienced driver to capitalize the capability of the car. It was a surprise last year, that a rockstar like Rhys would jump behind the wheel of a car built in a small garage by few people on the other side of the world. Fingers crossed for Drive eO! 
Greetings from Latvia


Ok how do they get 1500 hp and only 2600 lb with electric motors? Batteries or capacitors or both? Do they all spin at the same rpm? And then is it direct drive or geared and why? Any differentials? What's the biggest challenge/s for electric race cars - range, cooling, reliability?


@The Jash yes do


How has Rhys had to adapt his style of driving with this car in comparison to the traditional fossil fuel driven vehicles he has piloted before?


Id love to see what the car looks like!?!?


Paddy McGrath 90nissanS13@my350z It hasn't beaten the Peugeot 208 T16, so no


Tajima with Rimac had little more time to prepare for this year. I hope we will have good, or just better, competition. Who knows, maybe someone new steps up.
Can you imagine Peugeot getting even madder than 208 T16?


1,858 lb-ft of torque isn't the impressive figure, it's 1,858 lb-ft of torque @ 0rpm


easy question! do you guys know if the race will be streamed online or something?


I find it really strange that nothing competing in Pikes Peak has piqued my interest since the double-engined Escuda.


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