By Karting1 ~ April 22nd, 2011. Filed under: Kart Racing News.
The FIA, under persuasion from the EU, have now made it their clear intent to push aspects of motorsport and karting in a more electrically driven direction for the future. Can karting really make any real change away from petrol power?
Jean Todt, FIA president, said “The EU feels that if we can have an electric category it will be very strong because they believe very much in EVs for the future. We could have a karting category, a single-seater category. As much as we can do, all over the world, we will do, because it’s a worldwide programme.”
Of course electrically powered vehicles have been in existence since the 19th century so the actual technology involved is nothing inherently new and any real change in the market place may be decades away. However, something like the Paris Bercy 2011 event being run on SodiKart’s range of electric karts does demonstrate that major kart companies are now investing into this technology.
Unlike rival motorsports where there is commonly a link between race car development and what we all drive on the roads, karting has never really had to justify itself beyond being a really simple and fun vehicle to drive. Free from those kind of outside pressures, karting has remained largely the same since the 60s and 70s. So going from 90-100 decibels of screaming metal and burning fossil fuels to the quiet woosh of an electric engine could be somewhat hard to digest for those who enjoy karting for the noise, feel and smell.
At the moment electric karts fit rather well into the rental indoor karting scene. They decrease emission levels and can easily rival 4-stroke engined karts in regard to power and weight. And with more and more facilities implementing them, they are obviously financially viable. The indoor karting market doesn’t share the same demands as the normal karting scene however, and electric power is something of a novelty quite well suited to indoor corporate karting.
This Italian video from over 4 years ago proves electric power on a kart can be very quick if a little cumbersome
But in the general karting scene where competition is full-blooded, electric engines may face a greater & more costly issue. Nick Jest from NJR Octane and New Kart commented he’s worried by the development race that could be ignited by this technology “You open the realms up, not from an engine tuning point of view, but with a guy with a lap top… you’ll end up with a fleet of people with laptops like F1” but he acknowledged the technology is proving exciting in the hire kart scene “I was down at Bizkarts and their new (electric) kart is pretty good to be fair. They’ve got a new kart out… so the whole electric shooting match is that it’s the same weight as a corporate kart with 2x GX200s on it and it’s a lot faster that 2x GX200s.”
The introduction of KF in 2007 proved how ferocious engine development can be with new technology. The possibility of new, lighter and more efficient batteries being produced as well as a endless development of power management systems does mean costs could be astronomical. But being a totally new way to go racing it’s almost impossible to say with certainty what direction costs and development could take.
The most likely option for the FIA, if they were to try and implement electric engine technology into their system, would be to copy what they have done with the CIK U-18 World Karting Championship. They could control engines easier and directly stop any dramatic escalation of competitive cost. Finding a technical partner to develop engines specifically for karting maybe tricky due to the unknown cost and untried market conditions.
Despite series like the TTXGP proving electric motorcycle racing can happen, creating the infrastructure to charge batteries at kart circuits also creates another massive challenge. The technology, infrastructure, and investment demands of moving to electric engines in any real way are gigantic and limit any move away from 2-stroke karting in the near, or distant future.
In the end it could be as simple as leaving it to the market to decide what it wants to go with regardless of what the regulatory bodies want, similar to how the MAX FR125 was introduced to the karting scene. Electric power still has its issues and it isn’t the only technology out there. 2-Stroke still firmly has its place as something for the future, and rival power units will no-doubt want a piece of the action. The market is continually evolving meaning the possibilities are endless. In the end it may not be as simple as a transition from petrol to electric.
But could you go electric, or is the buzz you get from a thumping piston something you want to keep? Do you have experience of racing electric bikes or RC cars? Feel free to comment below or on the Karting1 Forum.