Skip to main content

Here’s why this Texas racetrack won’t let electric cars onto its drag strip

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Almost anything goes at the weekly Friday Night Drags event organized by the Texas Motor Speedway. You can enter to race in a Lamborghini Aventador S, in a classic Mini, or anything in between as long as you follow basic rules like wearing a helmet — and not showing up on track day in an electric car. The venue’s owners recently banned EVs from competing.

The Texas Motor Speedway stressed that it’s not afraid that electric cars will beat gasoline-powered models. It would welcome the competition between, say, a Tesla Model S and a Mercedes-AMG E63. It decided to stop allowing electric cars onto its drag strip due to safety concerns. If one catches fire, which isn’t unheard of, the Speedway doesn’t have the equipment required to put it out. Gasoline- and diesel-powered cars go up in flames too, but those fires are easier to extinguish.

“The reason for the exclusion is, in the event of a crash and possible resulting fire, our emergency vehicles currently do not carry the specific equipment required to suppress EV fires. As I’m sure you’re aware, conventional extinguishers are of no use in fighting a lithium-ion battery fire,” wrote Texas Motor Speedway spokesman David Hart in an email sent to Tesla fan site Teslarati.

Basic chemistry explains the difference between an electric car fire and a piston-powered car fire. The chemicals contained inside a standard fire extinguisher are ineffective against a burning lithium-ion battery pack. The best solution is to either use thousands of gallons of water, according to Autoblog, or to let the car burn until every part of it has been consumed.

Neither option is ideal, especially on a racetrack. There are other risks, too. Electric cars sometimes re-ignite many hours after the fire has been put out, and the high-voltage system adds another bullet point to the list of life-threatening hazards first responders need to take into account. Dealing with a burning electric vehicle requires a great deal of preparation.

Hart told Digital Trends the Texas Motor Speedway isn’t opposed to the idea of investing in additional safety equipment, and it could even create an electric car class. It all depends on whether or not EV owners want to race.

“The addition of an EV class to the Friday Night Drags lineup would depend, in part, on potential participant demand as well as a cost/benefit analysis with regard to the additional safety equipment requirements. The specifics of that analysis has not been determined at this time. If it makes sense, we’ll look at the possibility,” Hart told us.

Updated July 31, 2019: Added statement about EV class.

Editors' Recommendations

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
Watch as Sony starts to test its Vision-S electric car on European roads
sony begins road testing vision s electric car prototype

Sony introduced its first car, the Vision-S, as a futuristic prototype at CES 2020. Many tech companies talk about branching out into the automotive industry, but Sony stepped in quietly and without notice, beating even Apple to the punch. Not one to rest on its laurels, it has started putting the electric sedan through its paces in Europe.

Building a concept car is difficult and expensive, but making one that runs, drives, stops, and can be legally driven on European roads increases the challenge exponentially. Sony didn't choose the easiest location in which to begin testing the Vision-S on public roads, either. It let the prototype loose in Austria, so test drivers need to deal with narrow mountain roads, headlight-high snow, and freezing temperatures that take a big toll on the car's systems.

Read more
Why charging speed is as important as range for owners of electric cars
audi argues ev charging speed is as important range e tron 55 quattro  endurance test

In the electric car cosmos, maximum driving range is the number most commonly celebrated and debated. It's a straightforward way to compare a battery-powered car with a similar gasoline-burning model -- on paper, at least.

In application, gauging an electric vehicle's daily usability requires factoring in things like its charging time and its charging capacity. Most modern electric cars have a range that exceeds a typical driver's daily use. The question, then, is how quickly the car can get back on the road once it does run out of juice.

Read more
Rivian won’t start delivering its electric pickup truck until 2021
Rivian R1T on a beach

Motorists waiting to receive one of Rivian's first electric trucks will need to muster more patience. The Amazon- and Ford-funded company announced it won't begin delivering the R1T and the R1S until 2021 at the very earliest.

Rivian, like a vast majority of the automakers operating in the United States, idled its entire manufacturing network in March to fight the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. The stay-at-home order came at the worst possible time for the relatively young firm. It was in the process of retooling the factory it purchased from Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois, to convert it into a state-of-the-art plant capable of churning out thousands of battery-powered off-roaders annually.

Read more