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Thread: Is Electricity a Fuel?

  1. #1
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    Is Electricity a Fuel?

    Recently at the Global Time Attack Super Lap at Buttonwillow Raceway Park a Tesla was disqualified because it did not fit the definition of an approved fuel. It was actually disqualified on two separate days which caused some confusion in the media coverage - See below update note.

    Global Time Attack has said they had to uphold their fuel rule as written but they are changing the rule for 2019 as it's obvious the future will include hybrids and all electric cars. VW just won Pikes Peak and set a new overall record (by a lot!) with an all electric car and I know that in 2019 there will be more of them there.

    But this got me thinking, if a hybrid or all electric car were to enter one of our races, would it be legal?

    "Rule E/C 1109. Fuel and Liquids
    A. Fuel. All cars competing in ICSCC events will run only on gasoline or a blend of gasoline and alcohol. Any blend of gasoline and alcohol shall not exceed 20 percent alcohol. Gasoline consists entirely of hydrocarbon compounds, and may contain antioxidants, metal deactivators, corrosion inhibitors and lead ethyl compounds such as tetraethyl lead. Unless otherwise authorized, oxygen and/or nitrogen bearing additives are prohibited. Gasoline produced specifically for racing is permitted."

    So is electricity from a battery, or in a hybrid from the gas powered alternator + battery, a fuel?
    Is a Hybrid or all electric car banned from competing in ICSCC races?

    Seems like we need to change the definition of fuel for clarity or outright approve or ban electric motor drivetrains.

    If you're curious Jalopnik has covered the incident and had this update.
    Updated: 11/13/2018 3:43 p.m. ET: Mountain Pass Performance was not disqualified from the second day of the Global Time Attack Super Lap event due to using a second driver. They were disqualified for running an unapproved fuel. Mountain Pass Performance were offered to go into Unlimited class, where there are no fuel restrictions, at some point during events on the second day, but decided to be DQ’d instead. Global Time Attack has never pulled a competitor from the podium before.

  2. #2
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    I believe every definition I've ever seen for "fuel" states that it's something you burn to provide power. Since you can't burn electricity, I'd say electricity isn't a fuel. Now, were a hydrogen-powered car to show up, I think we'd have a more interesting discussion, not least of which because hydrogen cars only burn the hydrogen to power the electric motors that make them go...
    My favorite racing quote: Jan Magnussen, when asked by a reporter how he could be "so brave" on the racetrack, replied, "I've had hospital food; it's not so bad."

  3. #3
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    The main issue would be crashworthiness, fire and chemical issues, electricution hazard ... all the things we would have to be sure our safety people were comfortable with and trained for to preserve acceptable levels of safety. It won't be anything as simple as specifying that "electricity is acceptable fuel" - it is going to take a hard look, some research and discussion about whether we will create any unacceptable liabilities long before the inevitable debate on what classing those cars could potentially fit into.

    And just to add to Steve's example of similar concerns about a hydrogen powered vehicle - there are hydrogen fuel cells that use hydrogen as a catalyst to create electricity through a chemical reaction as well as cars that actually burn hydrogen in a pretty familiar internal combustion process. Both hold serious concerns for racing, not the least of which is because of fuel storage. I remember an engineering project I looked at some years ago where the government was not allowing a particular hydrogen conversion to be street legal because of the burn characteristics in an accident. In many ways gasoline or diesel are hazardous because they splash and run like liquids but burn furiously when ignited. With a hydrogen tank, if ruptured and ignited the gas rises and burns completely releasing immense amounts of heat that vents straight up if it can but doesn't splash or run.

    Electric and gaseous powered vehicles need to have an established safety protocol that deals with chemical, shock, fire, and toxic smoke issues. Anyone who knows me would understand that I am all about inclusion wherever possible but if I was Steward at the first race of the year I would have no choice but to deny entry to an electric powered vehicle, hydrogen powered vehicle, fuel cell vehicle, propane powered vehicle, or even hybrid vehicles. Luckily, we aren't likely to be confronted with that issue right away and as more alternative fuel cars find their way into service we can be reasonably sure that safety procedures and protocols will be developed that can be adopted to address those concerns.
    Rick Bostrom
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  4. #4
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    So if we want to allow electric powered race cars, we need a class for electric powered cars then. And a revision of the fuel rules needs to be addressed.

    Also, according to the rules quoted here, diesel, propane, natural gas, 100% alcohol and steam are all prohibited.
    If you can't race it, play with it or take it to bed with you it ain't worth having!

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    Interestingly enough, diesel actually has some fairly serious concerns - when I was younger someone was making fun of how every car that even gets bumped in a movie immediately bursts into big balls of photogenic yellow flame. An auto shop teacher took us outside and dumped a small puddle of gasoline on the pavement then lit a match and threw it into the middle of the puddle. The liquid simply extinguished the match. Gasoline is made to RESIST burning easily so it doesn't detonate under the high temperature and pressure of the compression stroke. When done right it requires quite a hot spark to ignite it which allows very accurate timing to maximize efficiency. Diesel on the other hand is easier to ignite and contains more energy per gallon than gasoline. Unless we had some well researched examples that suggested diesel (or any other alternative fuel) did not pose any significantly increased safety risk AND our fabulous safety personnel who are the people who have to run towards a potentially burning vehicle tell me they feel adequately trained and comfortable with those fuels we wouldn't propose a rule change to include them. Classing those cars would be a whole different and later process that would only be necessary once those cars were deemed safe to race within our framework.
    Rick Bostrom
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    Having read through this entire thread, I get the impression most do NOT want the club to be 'proactive' in this issue. In other words, wait until the problem shows up in the paddock then figure out what to do with it? Is that right? As this could happen any weekend I think that's rather foolish.

    Why not have a committee including a couple of key fire and turn workers begin looking at what's being done now? After all, hybrids are running at Le Mans, World Endurance and Formula Electric now to name but a few. The solutions to problems have already been addressed, why not take advantage of them.

    At minimum you'll need the warning light systems to tell turn workers and other safety people if the car is 'safe' or 'unsafe' to touch. Need those for driver safety too. Lets him know if it's safe to get out of the car or not. I WONDER if the hybrids on the road today have those warning light sytems??
    89 Reynard FC (sold) - CREW or F&C

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    Conference and its member and associate clubs already have their hands full attempting to preserve grass roots level racing in the Northwest. It is unrealistic to expect a "problem to show up in the paddock" because any sane individual would perhaps consider the rules and know something about the organization before simply showing up at a race event and demanding to run in a car that is expressly illegal under our rules. This is a classic example of working ourselves up over a problem that doesn't exist. It is true that Hybrids run at Le Mans but only as a result of the engineering efforts and financial backing of international manufacturers with billions of dollars of resources. It is so cripplingly expensive that even huge multinational corporations can't stay in the series to run one for very long. What it cost to run one hybrid entry at Le Mans or a WEC event would buy every car that shows up at a Conference event in a year with money left over to pay all of our entry fees many times over. Formula E is an emerging motorsport that is not likely to spin off any old cars to be scarfed up by the average amateur racer any time soon. The best thing about those series is that as they explore the technology, expose its strengths and weaknesses, its costs and availability will start to become more realistic for guys with amateur budgets, much less the backing of a manufacturer. The other thing that will be developed as they race is experience with their safety issues and protocols will be developed that amateurs can then emulate. It is conceivable that someone could strip out am old sports racer and fill it with laptop batteries or try to wedge a cage into an early Tesla roadster but those kind of things are unlikely for a variety of reasons. Unless my ear is getting quite a ways from the ground I haven't caught wind of much interest nationally in a Spec Prius series that I am aware of.

    I get what you are saying - I have always made myself available to go to peoples garages and shops all over Conference territory to look at cages, advise on cars under construction, and help with rules and classing. I am all about finding ways to include people who want to come out and race their cars at a grassroots level. There is plenty of effort we can be making to support the racers that we already have without all of us standing expectantly at the gate waiting for the first alternative fuel vehicle to arrive. It is a challenge to survive in the current racing climate without making imaginary problems for ourselves. Frankly, it is more important to us to reach the drivers interested in the current budget endurance racing movement than worrying that a Porsche 919 might want to run with us and we would have to turn him away.
    Rick Bostrom
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    100% electric racecar has been running in CACC at Mission for last 2 seasons.
    SCCBC Forum thread:
    http://www.sccbc.net/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1486082911

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    Quote Originally Posted by atc16 View Post
    100% electric racecar has been running in CACC at Mission for last 2 seasons.
    SCCBC Forum thread:
    http://www.sccbc.net/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1486082911
    So presumably the safety team at Mission is equipped to handle battery fires now, right?
    https://jalopnik.com/watch-volunteer...-fi-1819665352
    Bob

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    The fabricator/engineer in me says very cool post and car to the electric powered Cobra, thanks for the interesting article.

    The club officer/steward/ICSCC president in me says thanks to long serving, Conference loving, ex-steward Mearns for posting something it would have taken a normal person hundreds of words to explain and me several thousand ;-)
    Rick Bostrom
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  11. #11
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    It never occurred to me that an Audi turbo diesal based build would be illegal. I'd actually thought about building one as a endurance racer.

    We aren't waiting at the gates, one is here and racing in events. Although I expect hybrids to be more likely at our sprint races.

    I would volunteer to be on the alternative fuels safety exploration committee .
    Last edited by Sgt.Gator; 8 Dec 2018 at 05:03 PM.

  12. #12
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    Well there you go. The one racing in CACC (cobra replica above) could show up in the Seattle Raceway paddock any time he's in the mood. Unless somebody warns him that he is not welcome Which is a real shame. I for one would love to see it run.
    89 Reynard FC (sold) - CREW or F&C

  13. #13
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    THAT'S what you got out of all that? That he isn't welcome? Not that we don't currently have the rules or safety procedures in place to support him? :eyeroll:
    My favorite racing quote: Jan Magnussen, when asked by a reporter how he could be "so brave" on the racetrack, replied, "I've had hospital food; it's not so bad."

  14. #14
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    Just to reply to Bob's comment. Yes the safety teams at CACC events (road race and hillclimb) do have the equipment and training to deal with electric car fires. All our trackside staff are briefed on how to deal with electric cars (flashing power on light do and don'ts, etc.)

  15. #15
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    NASA specifically permits Diesel. Electric powered vehicles, in all or in part, must have National Office approval:

    "NASA 18.3 Permitted Fuel
    Permitted fuel is any grade of commercially available unmodified gasoline, E85 Ethanol, biodiesel, or diesel. The driver must notify the Race Director if using methanol or other exotic fuel, when class rules permit. Vehicles that run on (all or in part) electricity, propane, or hydrogen must be cleared through the National Office in writing."

    I'm sure SCCA has probably had a Tesla show up for their Track Nights program. Not the same as wheel to wheel racing but the track safety crews have to be ready and trained just the same.

    While we are discussing this we should consider allowing E-85 too.
    Last edited by Sgt.Gator; 10 Dec 2018 at 11:35 PM.

  16. #16
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    Just off the top of my head any rules language involving vehicles with electric motors needs to say a couple things about their ability to sense a fault in the system and their ability to break said fault given worst case fault current that the energy source can supply. Probably some language about bonding/grounding capacity also. Jeff

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    Nice to see some discussions about EV race cars! This is Doug Yip thats my Tesla Cobra EV that was mentioned earlier. I have met many of you in the 25 years that I have been racing in the PNW with my Sunbeam Tiger, GT1 Mustang, and MR2.

    More and more motorsports groups are allowing EVs. SCCA will be allowing EVs in RallyCross and their Time Attack series this year. They already allow them in their Autocross classes. However, except for CACC, no other road racing group has rules which specifically address EVs.

    Certainly nobody likes surprises at the track. As Ray mentioned, we worked with the turn workers (META), SCCBC Safety Crew, Tech Officials, and CACC executive long before our car appeared on track. We proposed and had rules include in the CACC GCR. We wanted to make sure that there would be no surprises for anybody. EVs are not less safe than internal combustion vehicles there are just different safety issues. As far as our car, the Cobra is classified by SCCA as a GT1 car. Our proposal to CACC was that we had an over-modified GT1 car which should thus be classified in GTO. Similarly, we do meet all the requirements for ICSCC SPO except for the Fuel rule as discussed earlier.

    Its a matter of When, not If electric vehicles start road racing in significant numbers. Conference needs to decide in what groups it would like EVs to participate and what safety standards should be to set. There will be no stampede of EVs at Conference events in the short term. Autocross and Time Attack events will be the first ones that EVs participate in because of their short duration. Everybody knows that some Electric Vehicles can post crazy acceleration numbers but current production EVs cannot sustain high outputs for long periods because of battery and motor overheating. For instance, we struggle to finish a 20 minute race at Mission, but are very quick in short events (such as the Knox Mountain hill climb in which we posted the 2nd fastest time earlier this year). Were working on it, but it will be a while until we can hope to finish a 30 minute ICSCC race!

    I would be happy to work with ICSCC officials to write some safety rules for EVs and also to propose that electricity is a fuel when the time comes!

    Doug

    Here's a link to a video from us at Mission last year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onPaceYswN4

  18. #18
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    First, cool car - it eases my mind a small amount that there is still the possibility of a good drive after the fun police finally find a way to ban the internal combustion engine.

    Secondly, I absolutely mirror Steve Adams' comment - we don't want to exclude anyone that wants to race and I think that is pretty clear. What does need to happen is all of the investigation, decisions, rule making, and safety training that would go into any radical change to our race operations. That doesn't mean it has to take forever or even all that long - but the "due diligence" must be exercised for the good of all. If the only thing that will satisfy some people is that they get to do whatever they want at the moment it occurs to them regardless of the effect it has on others then I would urge them to prepare for lifetime of continual frustration.

    Thirdly, just taking a look at it I would tend to believe that a car like that will never fit into something like GT1 in a traditional sense. I can see it running along with them in "exhibition" but the technology is so different that it would likely be impossible to balance the performance potential of internal combustion GT1 cars and electric GT1 cars in a way that wouldn't make one constantly overpowered or underpowered. In pro series the sanctioning body can make constant BOP adjustments to balance fully developed cars because there are reasons that produce revenue to do so. In amateur racing nobody wants the weekly job of trying to equalize cars and few are actually fully developed so it is difficult to know if they even need equalization. I have no doubt that if amateur racing survives long enough there will be a race group of electric cars racing against each other which allows a much more straight forward ruleset to make competition fair.

    As far as SPO goes, I think that is really a "catch all" class that is pretty much designed for something like a Tesla Cobra. Generally the SP classes are for people how want to develop something that can't fit existing rules but want to have fun with their car. The only question I would have is that some years ago we decided to bust SP into SPO/SPM/SPU based on engine capacity and basically nothing else. We would really need to develop some criteria for dividing EV into those classes based on their potential "output"? For all I know Mr. Yip's car could be SPU not SPO!

    Much to do to include them, but that is some of the fun isn't it? Those that care enough to see it happen should be getting together to suggest some rules and running it through the rule change process in the coming years. Any member club has Executive Board representatives that can submit it as a discussion item for the Spring Meetings coming up. If you are one of the people getting all worked up about us turning away vehicles that might show up at our door that we CANNOT currently accept because they are not allowed by our rules, stop complaining and do some positive work preparing a place for them! Sounds like Mr. Hudson and Mr. Yip are willing to be a part of the solution.
    Last edited by rick_bostrom; 20 Dec 2018 at 07:10 PM.
    Rick Bostrom
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  19. #19
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    A few thoughts after watching the video:
    • Pretty weird watching a video from a Cobra and hearing nothing but wind noise!
    • Speaking of noise, I can't tell you how many times I've been aware of a competitor in a tight corner because I could hear their engine... a real challenge with an EV.
    • Personally, while I respect the hell out of the engineering, one thing I don't like about this car is one of the same things I dislike about street EVs... no shifting. For me, that's part of the fun/challenge of driving.


    Another big advantage of an EV over any other kind of racecar, I'd think, is the dramatic decrease in the number of parts failures you'd have to worry about in a race. If true, is that something that should be considered when classing? (In the vein that forced-induction & rotary-engined cars paid a class penalty in SPx classes over pure engine displacement considerations.)
    My favorite racing quote: Jan Magnussen, when asked by a reporter how he could be "so brave" on the racetrack, replied, "I've had hospital food; it's not so bad."

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Adams View Post
    A few thoughts after watching the video:
    Another big advantage of an EV over any other kind of racecar, I'd think, is the dramatic decrease in the number of parts failures you'd have to worry about in a race. If true, is that something that should be considered when classing? (In the vein that forced-induction & rotary-engined cars paid a class penalty in SPx classes over pure engine displacement considerations.)
    Steve I don't think so, at least not yet. The weight of the batteries more than compensates for any other advantages. At least with current battery technology, but that is changing rapidly, partly due to Formula E advances.

    I expect hybrids to be the first cars we will see wanting to race. They have already been racing in both pro and amateur races. EVs will be coming shortly after that. Consider:

    All the top LeMans prototypes are hybrids. This is partly driven by favorable rules for them but it says where the FIA and major manufacturers are committing their money.

    Starting in 2019 Formula E no longer has to switch cars in the middle of a race. The Gen 2 cars are a leap ahead of the Gen 1, capable of 175 mph, the races are 45 minutes. Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, Penske, BMW are all jumping on the train. The expected fan base is 300 Million TV viewers. https://www.fiaformulae.com/en/disco...and-technology

    Honda CRZ Hybrids competed in the NASA Thunderhill 25 in 2010 and 2014. In 2010 Honda Performance Development fielded two cars, one of which took 2nd place. The other qualified on pole (in their class) but got taken out of contention in an accident. https://www.motorsport.com/roadracin...report/396100/

    In 2014 Spoon racing entered a CRZ Hybrid and took 3rd. There's a good video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFBZf7uIH9w

    Honda Performance Development put together a supercharger and other parts that make building a semi powerful hybrid possible. (200 HP). These cars are now getting old enough, and cheap enough, that they are becoming candidates for racing at the grass roots level. https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/h...-at-the-track/

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