Panoz’s electric race car concept might be coming to a track near you

Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV

Alternative powertrains are slowly but surely making their way into racing. The Formula E electric-car race series is in its third season, and hybrids race in Formula One and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But a small U.S. firm wants to pick up the pace.

Georgia-based Panoz is known primarily for the Esperante sports car and for the bizarre DeltaWing, development of which led to a legal spat with Nissan. Panoz has apparently put the DeltaWing business behind it, and is instead focusing on an electric race car that may even spawn a road-going sports car.

Along with its sibling company Green4U Technologies, Panoz unveiled the GT-EV concept in Le Mans, France, this week, ahead of the big 24-hour race. The all-electric race car is just an idea right now, but Panoz hopes to eventually put it on the track.

“Our goal is to run our car in a race, perhaps even applying for a future Garage 56 slot,” founder Don Panoz said in a press release. Garage 56 is the slot on the Le Mans grid reserved for experimental cars. Previous entries include the DeltaWing and Nissan’s ZEOD RC hybrid.

The GT-EV concept is based around a carbon fiber chassis with an unusual off-center cockpit design, which places the driver on one side and the battery pack on the other. That pack is designed to be swapped out during pit stops, addressing the issue of range. Panoz expects the car to be able to cover 90 to 110 miles in race conditions, but that’s not enough to finish a race on one charge.

An electric motor at each axle gives the GT-EV all-wheel drive. Panoz is aiming for a total output of 400 to 450 kilowatts (536 to 603 horsepower), and a curb weight of 2,200 to 2,750 pounds. That should allow a top speed of 175 to 180 mph, according to Panoz. The company is also considering building a road-going version although, with its single-seat cockpit, that might be a tough sell.

Just getting an electric race car on the track will be difficult enough, let alone making it a winner. Panoz will have to work with racing sanctioning bodies to get its car approved. While the company has plenty of racing experience, competing in today’s big-budget environment has also become more difficult for small firms. Add to that the challenges of adapting a relatively new technology to the demands of racing, and Panoz has quite a challenge on its hands.