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10/05/2021
Racing and electric

Motorsport

 

Motorsports can accelerate the transition towards an electric mobility. The key role played by the tire industry

Paolo Ferrini

Racing and electric motors, a combination only apparently incompatible. Especially when it comes to tires. Unless you had the opportunity to experience, at least once, the huge torque and acceleration delivered by electrically powered vehicles. In addition, it seems that the future of the automotive sector is being progressively channelled towards electric mobility.

Motor racing, traditionally seen as a testing ground for new technologies, has not been spared from the "electric temptation" and, albeit with circumspection, professionals and enthusiasts are looking with increasing curiosity into this solution, involving the tire industry at the same time, which has to face new challenges. First and foremost, the need to reconcile compounds and structures designed to cope with the generous torque and immediate response of electric motors and deliver the grip needed to avoid skidding.

 

Formula E hand in hand with Michelin

Formula E represents the crown jewel in this field. The championship is based on a Dallara single-seater, aesthetically very similar to Formula 1 racers, but powered by fully electric power units with power ranging between 200-250 kW. The rules provide for a single tire manufacturer, which happens to be Michelin in this case, and understandably so since the French tire maker has been linked to this category since the first season of racing in 2014.

Unlike what happens in F1, Formula E teams have no options to choose from (slick, intermediate wet and rain), but a single all-weather tire designed to adapt to every possible change in the weather, including rain, and able to cope with the road surface of large cities where, despite the goodwill of the organizers and local administrations, drivers are forced to deal with uneven tar, manhole covers and even cable car tracks.

This year teams are using the new 18" Pilot Sport EV (245/40 front, 305/40 rear), a non-directional asymmetrical tire that looks similar to the ultra-low profiles commonly found on high-performance road touring cars. This is a revolutionary tire in many ways, at ease in both dry and wet conditions and over a wide temperature range, just like a standard road tires. In addition, its dimensions and tread, which makes it similar to a standard tire, facilitates the technological transfer from race tracks to road.

The first results of this work are the single tire used in a new one-make trophy reserved for the Opel Corsa-e Rally and the brand new Pilot Sport EV for road use with ElectricGrip Compound technology. The latter features a sort of double compound: harder in the centre of the tread to provide grip and cope with the torque of electric sports cars, softer on the sides as in Formula E.

 

Single tire or no single tire

Temporarily in stand-by due to the recent pandemic, the first edition of the Pure ETCR (Electric Touring Car Racing), promoted by Eurosport Events, a world championship reserved for electric touring cars, will kick off on the 18-20 June weekend at the Vallelunga circuit. This will be followed by four additional events in Zolder (Belgium), Alcañiz (Spain), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Inje (South Korea). Four different teams - Cupra, Hyundai Motorsport, Shanghai Lisheng Racing and Romeo Ferraris - with 680hp (500 kW) electric cars will compete in a race format that in some ways resembles that a rally-cross series with short, sharp wheel-to-wheel battles in which each driver will push the car to the limit without having to worry about energy-saving tactics.

As far as tires are concerned, all cars will be equipped with Goodyear Eagles specially developed for this "electric series" which technological contents inspired by the company's latest EV tires, such as the new Eagle F1 SuperSport ultra-high performance range. The proven structure will support all-weather tread pattern that will allow Pure ETCR drivers to use the same tires in dry and wet conditions, thus reducing the number of tires used during each event, in line with Goodyear and Pure ETCR's mission: work together to find sustainable solutions for the future of mobility and motorsports.

"Goodyear is investing huge resources in the development of EV tires," explains Mike Rytokoski, vice president and marketing director of Goodyear Europe. "In Europe, half of our tires are developed for electric and hybrid vehicles, and now we bring our great experience to ETCR as well. High-performance road electric vehicles have very different requirements compared to their ICE equivalent, whether petrol or diesel. They are heavier and deliver more torque immediately. Goodyear has developed tires that can cope with this instant release of power, ensuring high levels of grip and traction, along with low rolling resistance, in an effort to increase mileage and efficiency. Our partnership with Pure ETCR means more than simply supplying racing tires. Together, we will use racing to develop technologies that will excite the next generation of drivers."

 

New “shoes” for Smart

After a couple of seasons with Pirelli Cinturato 1 Verde as a single tire for all participants, as of this year the Smart EQ Fortwo e-cup, the one-make series reserved for the German electric-powered city car, switches to Laufenn S FIT EQ+, a high-performance road symmetric tire that can also be used on the road, made by the Hankook Group. "We are really proud to have been chosen as the official tire supplier of the Smart EQ fortwo e-cup for the 2021 season. This sponsorship is very important for us because it shows how Laufenn has been judged on a par with such an innovative and popular championship", says Carlo Citarella, managing director of Hankook Tire Italia.

 

Sustainability and equality

Last, but by no means least, is the new Extreme E series that aims to combine electric power with the charm of vehicles used in popular rally-raids that take place in remote regions such as Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Greenland, Brazil and Argentina.  The star of the show, in this case, will be a special SUV powered by fuel cell Odyssey produced by Spark and entrusted to a team made up of a man and a woman. A sort of Electric Odyssey with a floating paddock and the series headquarters housed on a ship that will be used to transport all the equipment, including cars, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For this series, Continental has developed CrossContact, a new tire featuring an All-Terrain pattern consisting of large blocks and a design that makes it perfect for hot, soft surfaces such as sand and gravel with features allowing the tire to quickly expel any stone stuck in the tread.

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