Colorado Springs, Colorado - Volkswagen has made history at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, claiming outright victory at the 96th running of the iconic ‘Race to the Clouds’ with the specially developed I.D. R Pikes Peak electric car.

Works driver Romain Dumas not only beat a field of both conventional and alternative powered cars, he set a new outright course record of 7m57.148s - a full 16 seconds better than Sébastien Loeb’s all-time record, set in 2013. Dumas now tops the list of Pikes Peak champions, which includes legendary names such as Loeb, Walter Röhrl, Michèle Mouton, Stig Blomqvist, Nobuhiro Tajima, and Rod Millen and his son Rhys.

Announced on 18 October 2017, the I.D. R Pikes Peak car was developed in just eight months specifically for this challenge, a 19.99 kilometre course with 156 corners that rises 1438 metres from start to finish. It had to combine maximum power with minimum weight and as much downforce as possible.

The power part was relatively easy: two electric motors from Integral e-drive delivering a total of 500kW and 650NM, and the whole car weighs less than 1100kg; weight-saving measures included a special featherweight Nomex suit by OMP for Dumas! Getting downforce - especially in the thin air above 4000 metres - was more difficult, which is why the bodywork is distinctively low, flat and wide. In fact, with the exception of the domed cockpit, practically the whole body is one huge wing - and there’s another one cantilevered off the back.

Power for the motors comes from two cross-connected lithium ion battery packs - one on either side of the cockpit - and here there’s a kicker. Pikes Peak rules say that if your run (and you only get one run) is interrupted by problems on the course, such as a crashed car ahead of you, or mist closing in, you have to be refuelled and ready to go again in 20 minutes, or forfeit your run.

That’s a big ask for an electric car. So Volkswagen developed new high-amperage generators, which run on glycerol, a sugar alcohol which is a by-product of biodiesel production. It’s so non-toxic you can drink it (it’s even permitted as an additive in the food and cosmetic industries) and burns with virtually no harmful exhaust fumes.

IOL Motoring