Electric vehicles have always enjoyed a close association with the auto racing world, especially after the 1960s when slot car kits were popularized. Scale was something of a problem, though, until FIA finally introduced its first Formula E series in 2014. Now the North American Stock Car Racing Association is getting into the act. Rumor has it that EVs will be taking to a NASCAR track as soon as next year.
Electric Vehicle Rumors Abound
Followers of NASCAR already know that the organization has been working towards the launch of a racing series for electric vehicles, perhaps inspired by the attention garnered by Formula E and its more recent sister EV series, Extreme E.
The news about the 2023 launch was scooped last week by Jerry Jordan, editor of Kickin’ the Tires. Jordan emphasizes that NASCAR is not confirming the rumor, at least not yet, but he is pretty confident that his sourcing documents are legit.
Whoa if true, the plan involves series of races beginning in the third quarter of 2023, featuring a total of 12 electric vehicles depending on interest from OEMs, meaning auto makers and other stakeholders.
As an indication of how far the electric vehicle racing scene has come since the first Formula E showcase, NASCAR appears inclined to prohibit batteries from being swapped or charged during the race.
Want more? Go visit Kickin’ the Tires for all the details about NASCAR’s big EV adventure, or rumors to that effect.
Ford Builds Buzz Around Mustang EV Racer With Gasmobile Tease
Rumor or not, OEMs have probably been pushing NASCAR to make room for their new electric vehicles in its high profile showcase, and the pushing has probably been getting harder as legacy automakers pivot more of their business into zero emission mode.
We’re guessing that Ford is among those pushing hardest. The successful launch of the company’s Mach-E Mustang EV in 2020 helped set the stage for a NASCAR mashup, and the electric vehicle tease continued in April 2021 when the Mach E pulled duty as the pace car during the NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway.
As a crossover SUV, the Mach-E is not exactly fodder for the NASCAR mill. However, last year Ford also juiced the Mustang racing brand with the unveiling of an all-new gasmobile version for the NASCAR circuit.
“A completely new era in stock car racing is ushered in today as Ford unveils its all-new 2022 NASCAR Next Gen Mustang to the public in Charlotte, North Carolina,” the company said in a press release.
“The new car, which has been under development for two years, is completely different from its predecessor – redesigned from the ground up. Unlike past versions, with the exterior being the only noticeable change, this model is built for the future, featuring flexibility for technological advances such as a hybrid or electric powertrain,” they continued.
“The new race car more closely mirrors its Mustang production counterpart, which maintains its title as world’s best-selling sports car,” they added.
Ford Hearts Electric Vehicles
In last year’s Next Gen announcement, Ford also noted that 2019 was the first year to feature a Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series. The car went on to 18 wins in 2020, helping Ford nail down the manufacturers’ championship, its 17th such award since 1956 (check out Auto Week for some great vintage photos).
While all that activity has been going on in the gasmobile area, Ford has also been polishing up its electric vehicle profile, including electric versions of its F-150 pickup and Transit work vans to go along with a new EV-centric campus in Tennessee.
On top of that, last week Ford issued a major new announcement about its plans for 2023, including the introduction of new new high performance EV battery chemistries.
If you’re guessing the Mustang Mach-E will make an appearance when NASCAR debuts its first all-electric series, that’s a pretty good guess, except that the Mach-E is a crossover SUV, not a sedan.
On the other hand, according to Jordan’s information NASCAR is leaving the door open to electric SUVs, at least for now. Also one could always dream of an all-electric Mustang that actually resembles America’s favorite pony car.
What’s Next For NASCAR
Circling back around to that thing about innovation, Ford has actually been prepping for an EV future with NASCAR for at least 10 years. Ford introduced its short-lived Fusion gas-electric sedan during the EV-friendly Obama administration, and it was in production just long enough to earn a slot as a pace car during the 2013 NASCAR season.
Also in back in 2013, NASCAR raised the status of its Green Innovation arm to Vice President, and our friends over at the Orlando Sentinel noticed that 20 Level 2 charging stations for electric vehicles were installed at NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida. The installer was Eaton, as part of its partnership in the freshly minted NASCAR Green program. The installation provided NASCAR with an opportunity to promote the Obama Administration’s Workplace Charging Challenge for electric vehicles in 2014.
NASCAR also began promoting biofuels in 2011 and other bio-products, in support of the National Bioeconomy Blueprint. In they 2014 also entered into a multi-year partnership with the American Council on Renewable Energy, through a sponsorship with Lockheed Martin.
NASCAR Green is still under way in some form or another, but it didn’t cross our radar much during the Trump administration, except in April 2017 we finally noticed that NASCAR was doing climate change education on its website, in response to fan surveys indicating receptiveness to environmental messaging.
Meanwhile, the biofuel program is still going strong. Individual teams and tracks on the circuit have been pushing forward, too. Last February, for example, our friends over at Yale Climate Connections highlighted the RFK (Roush Fenway Keselowski) team, which counts electric cars, energy efficient buildings, and carbon offsets among its strategies for a carbon neutral future.
The latest news from RFK, by the way, is that driver Brad Keselowski drove a Kohler Generators Ford to a seventh-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 17
As for that notorious chanting episode in Talledega earlier this year, the law of unintended consequences appears to have kicked in. The chant is now a plot point in a new book aimed at building confidence among autistic children, titled “Brandon Spots His Sign.”
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Ford is among the automakers rooting for EVs to take to the track at NASCAR events (photo courtesy of Ford).
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