The sanctioning body has provided a glimpse of a racing future that could feature very different vehicles. NASCAR has begun exploring the possibility of an exhibition series featuring electric vehicles.
Steve O’Donnell provided the insight during a meeting with media members on March 10. He primarily discussed his promotion to NASCAR’s chief operating officer, but he also fielded questions about a possible future featuring electric vehicles. O’Donnell also noted that the current OEMs — Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota — have all expressed an interest in electric cars.
“We are exploring some opportunities around an exhibition series in that space,” O’Donnell said during a media availability on March 10, transcript courtesy of NBC Sports. “And as everyone knows, there’s a huge push across all of our (original equipment manufacturer) partners, and even potentially new OEM partners. So it’s important for us to explore that space. I think there’s a lot of interest from our current partners to be part of that.”
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Electric Has Remained a Possibility Entering the Next Gen Era
The 2022 Cup Series season marked the debut of the Gen 7/Next Gen era of NASCAR. These new vehicles are a major change for the teams with universal parts, revamped bodies, and larger wheels. Though NASCAR kept the internal combustion engines.
There have been conversations in the past about the sanctioning body potentially moving to an electric or hybrid powertrain in the future. There is a possibility that this will take place in 2023 or 2024, which NASCAR and its OEMs kept in mind when working on the Gen 7 era.
Changing the Gen 6 stock cars to hybrid or electric would have required an inordinate amount of work. The situation is very different with the Gen 7 cars. Moving to hybrid would require changing one of the Next Gen car’s three parts — front, middle, and back. Moving to electric would require changing two of the parts.
“With this module of the car — with the center section and then the bolt-on front clip and bolt-on rear clip — you have a lot of architectural flexibility there,” explained Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance’s global director, transcript courtesy of NASCAR Media. “The first step with hybrid will be relatively easy in the sense that the combustion engine stays the same, the driveline stays the same; well, the transaxle in the rear, you can put on electric motor to drive back there and a modest battery — and boom, you’ve got a hybrid.
“…For a full electric, there will be more changes required, but with the bolt-on front clip and rear clip, you can then have a unique front clip for an electric motor version.”
NASCAR Would Not Remove an Important Ingredient of Race Weekends
One of the biggest draws of the race weekend is the noise. The fans flock to the grandstands and listen as dozens of high-powered vehicles roar by. Electric vehicles don’t provide the same atmosphere.
While NASCAR may move to an electric powertrain in the future, there will be steps to account for the change in noise levels. The sanctioning body will not simply send out whisper-quiet vehicles onto the track and watch them complete hundreds of laps.
“But for us, the race has to be entertaining,” O’Donnell added during his March 10 availability. “Our fans, they love noise. They love the sound, the feel of racing. So if we’re going to get into the electric space, I promise you, it will be entertaining, and it’ll be something that fits into our portfolio and something our fans will be proud of.”