Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Future of Racing

I rode my motorcycle out to Portland International Raceway to watch the future of racing in a World Without Oil. Electrathon America held electric vehicle races and OHPV had human-powered vehicle races. I was surprised at how fast these things could go. The PIR track is about 1.9 miles, and the electric vehicles lapped it pretty quickly. One observer said they were averaging over 50 miles per hour.

"Electrathon is a national competition for lightweight, high efficiency electric vehicles. Power is limited to 67 lbs. of production lead acid batteries, which amounts to a little more than one horsepower over the hour. The rules are simple enough to allow a wide variety of creative designs, and although it's open to everyone, most of the competitors are school teams because the sport offers an affordable test of imagination, skill, discipline and teamwork. And, striving to foster an ethic of efficiency, it promotes the development of alternative energy transportation in compelling style." [link]

It was a strange feeling to be at a racetrack watching a race where everything is so silent. I'm used to having to wear earplugs if I'm close to the track, but that was not necessary here, in fact people's conversations practically drowned out the noise from the passing vehicles.

The human-powered vehicles also went surprisingly fast. Most were variations on recumbent bicycles or trikes. There were tandems, too, and one bike that used both foot pedals and a hand crank system at the same time.

I also watched the human-powered vehicles compete in a 1/8 mile drag race. It was a fun day at the track, and the quiet atmosphere and lack of exhaust fumes made it more pleasant than traditional gas-powered racing.


Illiana Speedster said...

Well, at least racing will continue on... even if it's drastically different from my days on the track.

Part of me was disappointed that I couldn't make it to the Indy 500 this year. This'll be the first year in I don't know how long that I'll miss it. Actually, I'm surprised they still went ahead with the race--even on ethanol.

James said...

Well, NASCAR is still going okay...although the reduced their 500 mile races to 400 miles and their 250 mile races to 200. About three of the races on the schedule were cancelled due to a lack of backing money, but nothing has really changed.

NASCAR's take is that their 40 or so cars zooming across a track for 500 miles use up less gas than say, transporting the Braves for three games against the Mets in New York. Of course, this doesn't count transporting the cars to the track, or practice racing, or all the 100,000 people or so to see a race. Some people are calling for a padlocking of motor sports; Congress doesn't seem to care.

I think that electric motor sports could actually break big. All it needs is some money and some high-profile financing, and it might be the sport of the future.