Toyota set a new lap record at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife for an electric car of just 7:47.79 yesterday, smashing the previous record of 9:01.3 as set by the Peugeot EX1 Concept back in May.
The quick time around the 13-odd miles of the Green Hell was set by Toyota Motorsports GmbH (TMG) in its prototype electric race car you see here.
And to put this lap time into prospective, it is less than 30 seconds off the 'Ring times of cars like the Nissan GT-R, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Dodge Viper ACR.
The key is TMG's expertise at building cars that can go around a track faster than almost anyone else. You see, TMG is an independently run organization within Toyota and was formerly responsible for building the automaker’s F1 race cars.
All the equipment to build and race an F1 car is still sitting at TMG’s main facility in Cologne, Germany, where it is often rented out to other firms working on race cars of their own. Most famously, Ferrari often uses TMG’s wind tunnel to help fine tune its own F1 racers.
As revealed by TMG’s communications officer Alastair Moffitt, much of the electric drivetrain powering Toyota's new prototype is based on knowledge gained in the development of the Kinectic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used in its original F1 cars.
“We have continued to expand in this area and the battery management systems and motor control units feature technology, which is derived directly from our F1 developments,” he said.
Drive comes from a pair of electric motors sourced from Evo Electric, rated at a combined 375 horsepower (280 kW) and 590 pound-feet of torque. They’re matched to a single speed gearbox and when fully worked will accelerate the 2,138 pound prototype from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds and see it reach a top speed of 161 mph.
Toyota F1 knowledge used for electric race car prototype
Total range is 124 miles, but at race speeds this figure will drop significantly. The batteries are a lithium-ceramic type supplied by Li-Tech.
They are rated at 520 volts and have a capacity of 41.5kWh. Their nominal output is 6 kW and they take about eight hours for a single charge.
In case you’re wondering why TMG was interested in setting an electric car lap record at the Nurburgring, it certainly wasn't just about bragging rights.
According to Moffitt, the project is a valuable chance to test high-performance electric powertrains in a real motorsport environment. Naturally, electric cars behave differently depending on the driving style and there is no tougher track than the Nordschleife, so engineers will learn a lot about cooling, battery performance, motor performance, durability, and so on.
Additionally, TMG is looking to become a leader in the growing field of electric race car development, and eventually hopes to sell its zero-emission drivetrains to independent race teams. In fact, the technology in this prototype could be on sale as early as next year.
And remember, this is only the beginning of what may prove to be an electric car revolution, both in the mainstream and motorsports.