When Volkswagen announced plans to challenge its I.D. electric brand on the hill climb at Pikes Peak, the aim was to break the record time up the mountain for electric vehicles. Things didn’t go exactly as planned.
The 500-kW (670 hp) I.D. R Pikes Peak piloted by sports car champion and Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas completed the 20-km, 156-turn uphill course in 7 minutes and 57.148 seconds. That was nearly a minute faster than the old record set by Rhys Millen in 2016 (8:57.118), as Dumas became the first driver to break the 8-minute barrier at the fabled hill-climb.
Yes, that means he also set a new overall record. Shattered the previous best, would be a better description — taking nearly 17 seconds off Sebastien Loeb’s 2013 course best of 8:13.878. It was Dumas’ fourth win at Pikes Peak.
“For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver. And the weather had to play ball too,” said Dumas. “That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake. I still cannot believe that Volkswagen and my name are behind this incredible time.”
What makes it even more incredible is that Loeb’s Peugeot 208 T16 had its 3.2-litre twin-turbo V-6 was modified to produce 875 hp, and Millen’s electric motors made 1,190 kW (1,600 hp).
But Volkswagen maintained from the start of the project (just 250 days before taking the green flag) that maximum horsepower was not the path to the record, believing that the combination of light weight, maximum downforce (especially considering the light air at the top) and appropriate power would translate into quicker times. The company used extensive simulations to calculate exactly how to achieve the optimum performance package, which ended up being a flat, streamlined body with a huge rear wing.
Including the weight of the batteries, the I.D. R Pikes Peak came in at 1,100 kg. Loeb’s Peugeot weighed in at 875 kg, and Millen’s eO PP100 tipped the scales at 1,200 kg.
“The I.D. R Pikes Peak is the sporty forerunner of Volkswagen’s I.D. family. Today, we saw what this technology is capable of,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for Technical Development. “With a combination of outstanding engineering skills, passion and commitment, the team has managed to create a fantastic racing car in just eight months. The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak has now set the fastest time in the history of this hill climb, which spans more than 100 years – that speaks volumes for electric mobility.”
The project also forced Volkswagen to look at EV-charging in a new light, because the car would have to be quickly recharged in the event of a race suspension. The regulations require that the car be recharged in less than 20 minutes, and Volkswagen wanted to achieve that in the most environmentally-friendly manner possible.
The company ended up selecting Glycerol (a sugar alcohol by-product from the production of bio-diesel) to run the generators required to provide the electricity to recharge the batteries. Glycerol is non-toxic (even permitted as a food additive) and in combusts with virtually no harmful exhaust or residue.
“The I.D. R Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition,” concluded Dumas. “The electric drivetrain means that many things are different, and I learned a lot during the project. The team did an indescribably meticulous, yet at the same time relaxed, job. Not only did we get the desired result, but the team spirit was also spot on. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of it.”