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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
    ICSCC #155
    Groups 1/4/5

  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!

  5. #5
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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
    ICSCC #155
    Groups 1/4/5

  6. #6
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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

  7. #7
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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
    ICSCC #155
    Groups 1/4/5

  8. #8
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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

  9. #9
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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

  10. #10
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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
    ICSCC #155
    Groups 1/4/5

  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 06:03 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; 11 Dec 2018 at 12:35 AM.

  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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