It’s not uncommon at all for people to get sick when they go to high altitude areas. There’s just a lot less oxygen when you get to eight, nine, and ten thousand feet. Like us, cars that run on combustion engines breathe air, and they don’t do too well in that environment either. They’ll usually run fine, but you’ll definitely not get the efficiency and power you usually get at sea level, or even at 5,000 feet. So, annual racing events that take cars up the steep road to Pike’s Peak (14,110 feet of altitude) can be a real challenge.
So, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that electric vehicles have a distinct advantage over the other cars on such races. After all, electric motors don’t require any air to operate, so they don’t lose power or stumble as they propel a vehicle into thinner and thinner air. Electric cars also have other advantages when racing at high altitudes. Electric motors can generate a lot of torque, which helps the car to quickly accelerate and reach higher speeds on hills. People have been experimenting with EVs at Pike’s for decades, and by the 2010s were taking home trophies.
The Volkswagen I.D. R electric car took the overall victory in the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and it set a new course record of 7 minutes and 57 seconds. That’s more than 16 seconds faster than the previous record set by Sebastien Loeb in 2013!
Ford’s Souped Up Cargo Van Is Going To Take On Pike’s Peak
What I didn’t expect was to hear that anybody was going to take an electric cargo van, like something a plumber or delivery driver might show up in, to Pike’s Peak for a race. Electric vans are awesome, especially for deliveries in cities where they’ll be at their most efficient, but they’re not really known for their prowess on the track.
But, Ford isn’t taking any old van up there. Sure, it looks very unconventional, but under the skin, it’s got some serious electric pep. The Electric SuperVan boasts impressive performance thanks to its four electric motors, 50 kWh liquid-cooled battery, and custom control system. This combination enables the vehicle to produce approximately 2,000 horsepower, resulting in a sub two-second 0-60.
To achieve this level of performance, the Electric SuperVan features a purpose-built chassis that includes components from the recently unveiled E-Transit Custom. This fully electric version of Europe’s best-selling van provides a solid foundation for the Electric SuperVan’s track-ready capabilities.
In addition to its impressive performance specs, the Electric SuperVan also features Ford’s SYNC in-cab touchscreen technology found in many road-going models. This technology has been enhanced with additional functionality to control the unique capabilities of the Electric SuperVan.
So, this is definitely no normal work van!
The SuperVan 4 is a fitting name for Ford’s latest creation, as it pays homage to the company’s first SuperVan that was introduced in 1971. This original model featured a mid-mounted engine taken from the Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, resulting in a Transit Mk. 1 that was radically different from other vans under the skin.
The SuperVan formula was further developed with the introduction of SuperVan 2. This version featured a glassfibre body draped over the monocoque and 590 PS Cosworth V8 engine from Ford’s C100 racing car. The next iteration, known as SuperVan 3, was based on the facelifted Transit Mk.3 and powered by a powerful 650 PS Cosworth HB engine shared with Formula 1 cars of that era.
Now, they’re going to combine this long tradition (building these crazy fast vans) with another tradition. It turns out Ford has been racing vehicles on Pike’s Peak for over a century. The first run was in 1916, with the Ford Model T.
“The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the perfect next stop for Ford Performance, and is the perfect place to take SuperVan 4, as both have long, storied histories that ignite the imagination of racing fans all over the world,” stated Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “Both have evolved over time, and it’s time to take our electric vehicle technology and put it to the test on the mountain against some of the most impressive performance vehicles in the world.”
Throughout the years, Ford has had the privilege of having several iconic drivers behind the wheel of its vehicles as it competed in events at Pike’s Peak. From Curtis Tanner and Parnelli Jones setting records in the Stock Car Division in the 1960s to Ken Block thrilling audiences with his Hoonicorn during Climbkhana, Ford vehicles have always attracted top-tier talent and helped them get up the hill faster and faster as the decades rolled by.
In 2023, SuperVan 4 will continue this tradition by being piloted by none other than motorsports icon Romain Dumas. Dumas is a record holder at Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb and has achieved numerous accomplishments throughout his racing career, including three wins at Le Mans. He also holds several lap records in electric-powered vehicles.
“Fords latest generation of Electric vehicle technology is the perfect match for America’s Mountain,” said Dumas. “With high altitudes cutting power in traditional ICE powered vehicles, the electric powertrain of SuperVan 4 has no loss at elevation and will be healthy competitor in this year’s race.”
Why This Matters
I seriously doubt Ford is going to sell SuperVans. That might be cool, but it would never sell in enough volume to be worth doing. But, the whole world doesn’t revolve around the weird and dull dreams of the bean counters (assuming they achieve REM sleep at all and even have dreams). Facts and figures, TCOs, and other forms of raw rational numertarian utilitarianism can sell cars, but we have to remember that we’re selling cars to humans.
Humans have emotions. I know Tesla fans might brag about the TCO of their Model 3 vs a Toyota Corolla on Twitter, but nobody does that in other cultural contexts, at least not if they value things like friendship.
The old adage “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” applies here. This is a way for Ford to get people emotional (and in a good way) about something as boring and utilitarian as a work van. At least some business owners will think that if Ford can make a tough van to climb Pike’s Peak, that they could be trusted to carry their livelihood around town.
Plus, this is just fun, so don’t be a wet blanket!
Image courtesy of Ford.
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.