More than 30 years ago, Volkswagen first attempted to conquer the infamous Pikes Peak hill climb race held annually in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The company tapped a twin-engined Golf to capture “The Race to the Clouds” – a 156-turn, 12.4-mile course that starts at an elevation of 4,720’ and ends at 14,110’.
VW took on Pikes Peak for three straight unsuccessful years – never managing to win the race. This year, they’re back, and they brought a little more than a hatchback. The I.D. R is described as a purpose-designed, electric race car that puts out 680 horsepower and 479 foot-pounds of torque.
This time, the twin-engine set-up is represented with a lithium-ion battery pack feeding two electric motors that recently produced a 2.25-second 0 to 60 time, making it quicker than a Formula 1 car. VW hopes that it could break the existing electric car course record of eight minutes and 57 seconds.
Carbon fiber helps keep the vehicle’s weight down to about 2,400 pounds, and Porsche offered its engineering prowess to tweak the vehicle’s aerodynamics. The electric approach could also be a huge advantage for VW, as internal combustion engines obviously need to be fed oxygen, which is in less abundance at higher elevations. This can impact performance, if the proper adjustments are not made.
However, electric cars have their own power concerns. The vehicle’s energy recuperation system has to be properly integrated into the drivetrain, as it will generate about 20 percent of the electricity used by the I.D. R during the race.
This system harnesses the kinetic energy generated while braking and channels it back to the battery pack. Specifying the right amount of recuperated energy and addressing the amount of heat going to the battery during this process are key engineering tasks.
VW will look to settle its score with Pikes Peak on June 24.