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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

VW Unveils First All-Electric Hill-Climbing Race Car

 
June 21st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Volkswagen Motorsport is charging to the start line of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, thanks in part to a new collaboration with ANSYS to develop its first-ever, fully-electric race car — the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak. With a goal of setting a new time record for electric cars at the race, Volkswagen Motorsport tapped into ANSYS’ Pervasive Engineering Simulation solutions to create a digital prototype of the battery system and optimize the electric propulsion system of the I.D. R Pikes Peak race car.

Behind the wheel of the 680-horsepower sports car prototype, Volkswagen Driver Romain Dumas will attempt a new time record for electric cars at the 96th edition of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race.

The aerodynamic design of the I.D. R Pikes Peak car was developed for extreme conditions and to meet the specific challenges of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

High altitude results in about 35 percent lower air density, which creates different aerodynamic conditions than a racetrack on flat land. In addition to real-time data and results, ANSYS solutions were used to simulate driving conditions that cannot be recreated in a traditional wind tunnel. With ANSYS solutions, Volkswagen engineers calculated the ideal balance of cooling airflow and aerodynamic loss and determined the best battery cooling strategy for optimal performance of the vehicle.

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Test Drive

“Perfect energy management is a critical factor for beating the record in the electric car category at Pikes Peak,” said François-Xavier Demaison, technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport and I.D. R Pikes Peak project manager. “The first test drive at Pikes Peak was successful and demonstrated the accuracy of our simulations. Our team is confident in the vehicle’s performance and eager to set a new record in the category.”

“ANSYS is driving advancements in electrification and next-generation vehicles with multiphysics solutions and Pervasive Engineering Simulation,” said Shane Emswiler, Vice President and General Manager at ANSYS. “The Pikes Peak project demonstrates the importance of ANSYS simulation solutions as customers tackle new challenges and explore new frontiers in electric propulsion.”

It’s been more than 30 years since Volkswagen last entered the legendary road race, charging up the hill in a 652-hp twin engine Golf but falling short of the finish line due to suspension failure. The German automaker’s return is as much about proving its racing credentials as it is about its overall electric vehicle strategy, which will be headlined by its I.D family of zero-emission vehicles. The Crozz crossover, Kombi-inspired Buzz and the steering-wheel-free Vizzion are all concepts that have been proposed as future members of the I.D. range.

The I.D. R Pikes Peak was actually unveiled in April in Alès, France. Just like the Golf in 1987, it is powered by twin engines, but electric.

“It was absolutely fantastic to see the completed I.D. R for the first time, and to take it out for its first spin,” said Romain Dumas, who is a three-time winner of the hill climb on Pikes Peak. “What Volkswagen has managed to put together from scratch over the past few months has my greatest respect. I had obviously seen initial pictures of the car – but it is even more spectacular in the flesh.”

Driving Electromobility To The Top

“Volkswagen’s goal is to reach the pinnacle of electromobility with the I.D. family. As such, Volkswagen’s involvement on Pikes Peak not only sets the trend for our future in motorsport, but is also of great symbolic significance in the truest sense,” said Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for Development, Dr. Frank Welsch. “Customers have always benefitted from the findings made in motorsport, and we expect to take these findings and use them as a valuable impetus for the development of future I.D. models. The hill climb on Pikes Peak will definitely be a real acid test for the electric drive.”

With two electric motors generating 500 kW, 650 Nm of torque and weighing less than 1,100 kg, the goal of the car is to beat the existing record of 8:57.118 minutes for electric cars at the “Race to the Clouds”. To achieve this, the I.D. R Pikes Peak will literally sprint into the future: 0 to 100 km/h in 2.25 seconds is faster than Formula 1 and Formula E cars. VW says it reclaims around 20 percent of its energy through regenerative braking.

“The car looks fantastic and has already been attracting a lot of interest from the media and on social media channels for a few weeks,” said Jürgen Stackmann, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for ‘Sales, Marketing and After Sales’. “This project shows once again that Volkswagen is on the right track with its major E-mobility strategy and the introduction of the I.D. family. The I.D. R Pikes Peak and the start at the most iconic hill climb in the world offers Volkswagen the magnificent opportunity to charge the topic of E-mobility, both emotionally and from a sporting perspective.”

The primary goal when developing the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak was to find the ideal balance between energy capacity and weight. The focus was not, as is usually the case with racing cars, on maximum performance. Volkswagen’s prototype for Pikes Peak justifiably bears two quality seals in its name. The “R”, which is synonymous with performance cars. And the “I.D.” – the symbol of Volkswagen’s smart E-technology.

“As with the Volkswagen brand’s production vehicles, fully-electric racing cars will also play an increasingly important role for us in the future,” said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “The cooperation within the group really helped us, particularly given the tight schedule. For example, we received support from the Volkswagen battery plant in Braunschweig and worked together with the technical development department in Wolfsburg.”

As in production vehicles with electric drive, lithium-ion batteries are used as the energy storage system. There is great demand on the battery cells. Their power density is the crucial factor for the system when producing high voltage. Unlike in the manufacturing of production vehicles, the goal of the motorsport engineers was not maximum range, but the highest possible power output on the way to the Pikes Peak summit.

It is one of the peculiar challenges on Pikes Peak: Testing on the 19.99-kilometer route of the hill climb in Colorado Springs is only very limited, and only possible on certain sections. For this reason, the bulk of the testing was not done on the actual route, but at racetracks.

Start at 2,862 meters above sea level, 1,440 vertical meters of climbing, 156 corners, 100 per cent asphalt, and just one single attempt – not only must the technology and driver be on top form as they attempt to set a new record for electric cars, but the external conditions must also play ball. It is not unheard of for the 4,302-meter summit of Pikes Peak, which also represents the finish, to experience temperatures below freezing point at the end of June.

This is exciting because as a long-time Colorado resident, I have driven and participated in running races up Pikes Peak, and it’s no easy task (even at relatively slow speeds). I’m excited for VW and the all-electric I.D. R Pikes Peak and wish the team the best.

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