Volkswagen's first fully electric race car — the 680-hp, all-wheel-drive, carbon-fiber Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak — screams of VW's eagerness to generate an electric atmosphere around the launch of its forthcoming line of I.D. electric vehicles.
The first is due to go into production in Germany in late 2019.
To date, VW has relied on a series of auto show concepts, beginning with the original I.D., a Golf-size hatchback, in Paris in 2016. It was followed by the I.D. Buzz microvan and I.D. Crozz crossover in 2017 and the I.D. Vizzion sedan this year.
The I.D. R Pikes Peak is designed to take on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24, which is an almost perfect competition arena for an EV. The energy to climb the 12.4-mile course can be packed into a not-too-bulky battery pack, and the power of an EV doesn't decline as altitude increases. Regenerative braking is another built-in EV bonus, and Volkswagen Motorsport is counting on it to provide 20 percent of the energy needed for the climb.
The new car will compete in the Unlimited Division. Cars must pass a safety inspection; beyond that, there are few regulations.
"It makes it more difficult for the finance department — because the limit is our budget," said Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director FX Demaison. "But for the engineers, it's fantastic.
"The battery was the biggest challenge. We try to find the lightest battery ... possible, with the most energy."
That quest led Demaison's team to the door of U.S. lithium ion expert A123, an outfit with a track record of providing batteries for motorsport applications.
The car will weigh less than 2,500 pounds, including the driver. The chassis is a carbon monocoque with double-wishbone suspension and a steel-roll cage. Bodywork is all carbon fiber. VW Group-owned Porsche helped in various ways, including wind-tunnel test time. That proved the down-force benefit of the gargantuan rear wing in thin mountain air.
The I.D. R Pikes Peak will have two electric motors capable of delivering a combined 680 hp. Demaison says the rear motor will deliver more power than the front.
Demaison promises the car will not run out of charge before crossing the finish line. Batteries cannot deliver peak power when their state of charge is low, he says. They need to deliver full power all the way to the top of Pikes Peak.
Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Romain Dumas will drive the I.D. R. The 40-year-old Frenchman is a five-time Pikes Peak runner and three-time winner.
"I think, for sure, you need to have experience in Pikes Peak if you want to perform," Dumas says.
Volkswagen Motorsport's official objective is to beat the Pikes Peak EV record, 8:57.118, set by Rhys Millen in 2016. But there's a bigger question: Could the Volkswagen also dream of beating the all-time Pikes Peak record of 8:13.878 set by nine-time World Rally champ Sebastien Loeb in a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak proto in 2013?
"Miracles happen," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets.