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ID. R Pikes Peak.
ID. R Pikes Peak.
How much can Volkswagen’s electric supercar really do? Well, enough to reach the legendary Pike Peak’s 4302 metre summit in record time. All while using the electric technology found in the Volkswagen ID. family.
A 19.99 kilometre, 1440 metre ascent featuring 156 tight bends, finished in 7 minutes 57.148 seconds. After a 31 year absence from the race and eight months of intense development, the ID. R Pikes Peak electric prototype’s performance took it, quite literally, straight to the top. Held in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Race To The Clouds is the world's most iconic mountain race. This famous motorsport classic features constantly changing weather conditions, sub-zero temperatures, and low levels of oxygen, all of which combine to make it a real test of endurance. “Perfect conditions” says Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for Technical Development. For him, this spectacular return to the mountains represents Volkswagen’s commitment to reaching the summit of the electric mobility sector.
While cars with combustion engines struggle at this altitude, the thin air has no effect at all on electric cars. The only risk of altitude sickness lies with the driver, 40-year-old Frenchman Romain Dumas. When Volkswagen last appeared at Pikes Peak with a Golf in 1987, Dumas was a small boy with a big dream, which came true when he went on to become a Formula One driver. During his illustrious career he’s also been a Porsche factory driver, a rally driver, a vintage car racer and a formidable 24-hour driver having won eight events, including Le Mans. He even set the third ever fastest time at Pikes Peak in 2016. But despite his impressive achievements he still has a huge amount of respect for the mountain. “Using electric motors is a challenge”, he says. You have to change your entire driving style as the car reacts differently. But it is precisely this thrill and the extreme conditions that draw him in – he has now won the classic three times. The trophies he’s won in Colorado are some of the few that he keeps at home, he gives most of the others away. So setting this historic record at Pikes Peak is sure to live forever in his memory.
Talking of historic, Pikes Peak is the second-oldest race still running in the USA. The event was first held in 1916, took place over three days, and was open to anyone with a suitable car or motorbike. This meant it was sometimes won by slightly more eccentric cars, like in 1922 when a car built from salvaged scrap took home the trophy. You can still see this unlikely champion in the Colorado Springs museum. A sports car first took part in 1953 and ever since Volkswagen subsidiaries Porsche and Audi have frequently featured on the fastest times list. In 2018, 56 cars and 27 motorbikes entered with the ID. R Pikes Peak featuring in the ‘Unlimited’ category. This category has just one rule, the car must have four wheels. With restrictions lifted on tech and engines, it served as the perfect testing ground for the electric drive system, especially given the extreme conditions on the mountain.
An endurance test of this kind is incredibly challenging. Unlike other races, it’s not about achieving maximum performance but about striking the perfect balance between speed and manoeuvrability while taking into account the weight and power of the car. Of course, the car still needs to be fast. The ID. Pikes Peak’s 500 kW motor is the equivalent of 680 hp, catapulting it from 0-100 KPH in just 2.25 seconds. With 650 nm of torque, 20% of the energy needed by the car is generated as the it is driven, even some of its braking power gets converted and fed back into the lithium-ion batteries.
The electric motors therefore also act as generators, a concept that will one day be standard in all electric vehicles. “We hope that we have generated some ideas for developing future models”, says Welsch. Volkswagen will launch the ID. family of all-electric vehicles into mass production in 2020, with more than 20 further models set to launch by 2025. It has already made a statement with the ID. R Pikes Peak’s winning performance. Now the next mountain beckons.