No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans
There’s no doubt vehicle electrification is going to play a major role in the development of new cars in the coming decade. Organizers of motorsport, even at the highest levels, are well aware of this and are reshaping the regulations to ensure the technology of the racing world doesn’t lag that of road cars.
In keeping with this, organizers of the World Endurance Championship which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans have announced some dramatic changes in regards to vehicle electrification technology for the 2020 season.
In an announcement on Friday, the ACO and the FIA said that in response to the needs of the manufacturers which are investing heavily in the development of plug-in hybrid cars, where more substantial batteries enable them to drive on electric power alone for longer and longer distances, the race cars competing in the top level of the WEC, LMP1, will have similar attributes.
Specifically, the LMP1 cars will need to cover a distance of 1.0 kilometer at race speed using electric power alone. This is to occur after every fuel stop. But to ensure they have enough charge, the cars will be given a rapid recharge at the same time their fuel tanks are being filled. In addition, the cars will need to cross the finish line on electric power alone, though the details on this rule are still being ironed out.
No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans
The current crop of LMP1s already feature hybrid powertrains that allow them to travel on electric power alone, though only for very short distances and nowhere near race speeds. And right now the cars’ batteries are charged solely by energy recovery during the race.
This is just one area outlined in the ACO and the FIA’s 2020 regulations for the WEC. Other changes include improving the comfort and safety of the cars, introducing alternative fuels such as biofuels and hydrogen, and putting restrictions on costs and limiting development and testing time to even up the playing field.
The cost and development restrictions are of particular importance now that there are only two teams, Porsche and Toyota, competing at the top level. The organizers are hoping that with the restrictions, fielding a competitive LMP1 entry will be much more affordable for new manufacturers looking to join the fray.
You can check out the full list of regulation changes at the WEC website.