France’s Romain Dumas took the wheel for Volkswagen, piloting the ID R Pikes Peak up the 20-km course in seven minutes, 57 seconds, more than 16 seconds faster than the previous record set by Sebastien Loeb in a Peugeot 208 in 2013.
Dumas’ result was also a full minute quicker than the previous electric vehicle record of 8:57 set in 2016 by Rhys Millen and the eO PP100 racecar.
Since 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has seen racers navigate the course’s 156 turns while climbing 1,440 metres in elevation. According to the race’s organizers, the thinning air taxes the drivers’ mental and physical strength, but it can also steal as much as 30 per cent of a combustion engine’s power compared to what it makes at the start line.
That gives electric racers a distinct advantage mechanically speaking, but VW’s engineers had to overcome another obstacle: Pikes Peak regulations state that electric racers must be capable of fully charging in less than 20 minutes. VW did that using generators fueled by glycerol, a non-toxic sugar alcohol chosen for its minimal environmental impact.
Volkswagen put a lot of work into keeping ID R’s weight to a minimum, the result being a car that weighs just 1,100 kg including its batteries and electric motors, which worked together to generate about 680 hp.
The only other electric car to successfully scale Pikes Peak was a Tesla Model S P100D, which needed nearly 12 minutes to cross the finish line in 2016. There have been a handful of motorcycles to do the trick, however: Carlin Dunne set the current electric bike record in 2013 with a time of just over 10 minutes on the Lightning Electric Superbike; the following year, Jeff Clark rode a Zero FX electric two-wheeler to the top in a shade less than 12 minutes.