As electric cars become more common in showrooms, they’re also finding their way onto racetracks. Single-seat Formula E cars race in cities around the world, and now Opel plans to take electric cars rallying. The German automaker is launching a rally series — the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup — around its Corsa-e electric car. The race-prepped car will debut at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in September, while the rally series is expected to start up in the summer of 2020.
The series will feature 15 identical Corsa-e rally cars. This type of one-make race series is fairly common; Jaguar already has one for its I-Pace electric SUV. They generally aren’t as glamorous or prestigious as top-tier race series like Formula One, but making all the cars identical lowers costs, making it easier for small teams and up-and-coming drivers to enter. Opel claims the e-Rally Cup will be a great way for young drivers to get noticed and move up the racing ladder.
The rally car is expected to be pretty similar to its road-going counterpart, which Opel is currently taking reservations for (the Corsa-e will also be sold in the United Kingdom as a Vauxhall). Opel didn’t touch the powertrain, retaining the same electric motor and 50-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The Corsa-e rally car makes the same 134 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque as the stock version. But Opel did upgrade the suspension and brakes, and added a roll cage and hydraulic handbrake, which makes it easier for the driver to slide the car.
Opel didn’t come up with the idea for electric rallying. The FIA World Rallycross Championship plans to launch a companion electric-only series called Projekt E. Rallycross is basically rallying for a YouTube audience. Instead of being held on multiple sections of roads or trails over several days, rallycross events are held on compact tracks that feature lots of jumps, as well as a mix of pavement and gravel, to create more of a spectacle. Formula E is also planning a series called Extreme E that will feature electric SUVs in exotic locations, and a team in New Zealand is working to turn a Hyundai Kona Electric into a rally car.
Outside the world of rallying, electric power is gaining a foothold. Formula E has evolved from a curiosity to an established part of the motor-sports scene, attracting interest from major automakers like Jaguar, Nissan, and BMW (Mercedes-Benz and Porsche will join next season). Volkswagen broke the record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with its all-electric I.D. R. Automakers have long used racing to help sell internal-combustion cars, so it’s not surprising that they are trying the same thing with electric cars.
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