Vooooom, vooom, vvvvrrrroooom vvvvvvrrrrooooooooom. That's the sound Sébastien Loeb made when he set the record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 2013. For 8 minutes and 13.8 seconds, Loeb's Peugeot 208 T16 turned petroleum products into 875 horsepower, screaming through 156 turns on the 12.42 mile (20 km) course.
The sound of the breeze over a subtle purr hypnotically accompanies the video of Rhys Millen, as he set 2015's winning pace of 9 minutes, 7 seconds. While not beating Loeb's record, Millen's performance did enter the record books as the first time an electric vehicle has taken the King of the Mountain title across all classes.
Both modified and production electric cars have classes of their own in the annual attack on Pikes Peak. In 2014, EVs took the second and third spots overall. This year the EVs stole the show, with Millen's top honors in the Race to the Clouds, while Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima's Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One came in second.
To be fair, the EVs do have a big advantage: fossil-fueled engines lose about 30% of their power in the thin atmosphere at the top of the mountain. The electric vehicles maintain a steady performance regardless of the elevation. That is, when all is working. Millen's car failed to break the 9 minute barrier as hoped because he lost half of his six engines and had to finish the race with what he had left.
Millen's Latvian-built eO PPO3 uses a 50kWh lithium-ion battery pack, over twice what is spec'd in production EVs like the BMW i3 at 22 kWh. 3 YASA-400 electric motors drive each axle, for a peak of 1020 kW of power and 2160 Nm of torque pushing the 1200 kg (2646 pound) vehicle to speeds of 260 km/hr.
If we are going to continue the over 90-year tradition of America's second oldest automobile race in the midst of that Colorado's awesome nature, the least we can do is go EV. Go EVs! Number one!