If you are anywhere near Colorado Springs this summer, mark your calendar for July 8, head to Pikes Peak for the 90th annual “Race to the Clouds” and get ready for a thrill. This year, Nobuhiro Tajima–race champion the past six years–will switch from a gasoline-powered vehicle to a new prototype electric car and attempt to break his own course record.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a long-standing Colorado Springs tradition, is expected to draw more than 35,000 fans for a weeklong event with motorcycle jumpers, beer gardens, a chili cook-off, live music and even the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. The race begins at 9,390 feet and finishes at the 14,110-foot summit. Thin air at such high altitudes is certain to take its toll on drivers and engines, but electric vehicles have an advantage because they do not require as much air as traditional combustion engines. Nonetheless, participants and vehicles have to be in excellent shape to speed through the 156-turn course.
Tajima is the chief commissioner of the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles (APEV), which is supported by hundreds of members. According to the organization’s website, two of its goals are to “preserve the global environment and to realize a sustainable society.” To that end, APEV hopes to win the race and use the international recognition to raise awareness about the need for information sharing in the auto industry.
The group’s website points out that while major automakers invest heavily in electric vehicles, many small- and medium-sized businesses are emerging in the field. Information is not typically shared when big profits are at stake, but APEV calls for cooperation because after all, the ultimate goal is to preserve the earth, which we all inhabit. APEV participates in other activities such as providing aid to disaster areas from the 2011 earthquake in Japan. It also helps educate children on environmental issues and encourage Japan’s senior citizens to become actively involved in sustainability projects.
Team APEV with Monster Sport will take on the 12.42-mile course in a prototype electric vehicle. Other than a drawing, few details have been released about it. Electric cars have raced to the summit before, but the course is fully paved for the first time this year. The city of Colorado Springs recently transformed all the remaining gravel portions into smooth cement.
The all-time record, 09:51.278, was set in 2011 by Tajima, who became the first to complete the race in less than 10 minutes. He wiped out the previous record (his own) from 2007, and he plans to do it again in 2012, this time powered by electricity. As of April 19, six other electric vehicles were registered for the race. Competitors in other vehicle classes will race super stock cars, vintage autos, motorcycles, sidecars, and quads, to name a few.
APEV Chairman Soichiro Fukutake organized the Pikes Peak EV Challenge Committee to prepare for the event. They asked for support and attendance in a press release. All support is used to further the organization’s mission of supporting the development, promotion, and commercialization of electric vehicles.