Image courtesy of NASCR

NASCAR Showcases New Electric Car, Blows Off “Woke” Controversy

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Oh the irony, it burns. Republican officials in more than two dozen US states have been slinging the “woke” canard around like so much hash off the grill, even as the pillars of their support collapse around them. The latest one to go over to the green side is NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. The iconic automotive organization is showcasing a new electric car this year, in line with its mission to keep the “stock” in stock car racing.

The Deeper Meaning Of NASCAR’s New Electric Car

Showcasing one electric car after generations of gas-guzzling turns around the track may seem like small potatoes. However, NASCAR has been providing a platform for vehicle electrification since the Obama administration, including a Ford Focus electric pace car in 2012.

“Last week NASCAR announced that it had joined the Obama Administration’s EV Everywhere electric vehicle initiative, and on Monday NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) doubled down with yet another big sustainability promotion deal consisting of a multi-year partnership with the American Council On Renewable Energy, sponsored by Lockheed Martin,” CleanTechnica reported two years later, in 2014.

The new EV prototype is a timely reminder that vehicle technology is changing, and NASCAR is changing with the times.

NASCAR unveiled the new electric car on July 6 at the Chicago Street Race, as a prototype EV project in partnership the leading global electrification and engineering firm ABB. Although NASCAR has affirmed that it is sticking with its historic gas-guzzling stock cars for the time being, the organization makes a point of emphasizing that reflecting the here and now of on-the-streets technology is fundamental to its mission.

In a press statement unveiling the new ABB NASCAR EV Prototype, NASCAR drew comparisons with the launch of its Next Gen Cup Series car, described as “the largest overhaul of the NASCAR Cup Series car in NASCAR’s 75-year history.”

“The Next Gen car, which debuted in 2022, put the ‘stock’ back in stock car, modernizing most of the vehicle’s components,” NASCAR observed. “It also marked NASCAR’s rededication to product relevance in ensuring its race cars match production cars on the street as much as possible.” In a sign of continuity, the same automotive partners from the Next Gen overhaul were the ones involved in developing the new electric car, namely, GM’s Chevrolet branch, along with Ford and Toyota.

NASCAR also notes that the same NASCAR engineers who contributed to the Next Gen overhaul and the Garage 56 collaboration were also the ones who built the electric car. Collaborators on the Garage 56 project also included Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, IMSA, and Goodyear in addition to NASCAR.

From The Next Gen Gas Guzzler To The Electric Car Of The Future

With that kind of pedigree, it’s no surprise to find the new electric car sharing a number of features borrowed directly from the Next Gen car, including the steering, suspension, brakes, and wheels, along with a modified version of the chassis.

Apparently the Next Gen development team was already thinking ahead. When NASCAR first unveiled the Next Gen car in 2021, NASCAR listed “the potential for hybrid power in the future” among the vehicle’s points of connection to current trends in automotive technology.

The hybrid idea apparently went out the window at some point. NASCAR reports that the new all-wheel-drive electric car deploys three electric motors, one in the front and two in the rear, to power four Goodyear Racing Eagle tires.

“Anchored by a 78-kWh liquid-cooled battery, the tunable powertrain can produce 1,000 kW at peak power,” NASCAR adds. “Regenerative braking converts kinetic energy into power, making the car ideal for road courses and short oval tracks.”

What Electric Car Buyers Want: More Flax

The new electric car also reflects the growing sustainability movement among automakers, including the use of more bio-based materials.

The body of the new ABB-NASCAR Prototype is made from a flax-based composite. The NASCAR press release did not name the supplier, but a number of potential sources come to mind. One is the Swiss startup Bcomp, which is contributing its lightweight flax-based composite to Volvo’s EX30 electric car.

That was just a guess, but before this story was posted I received an email from Bcomp confirming their flax is at work. “NASCAR’s innovative BEV prototype is the first major US motorsports project to incorporate flax-based composites,” Bcomp explained. “The high-performance bodywork uses Bcomp’s ampliTex™ technical fabrics in conjunction with powerRibs™, which were first inspired by the vein structure of leaves, to harness the natural advantages of flax fibre, a sustainable material.”

“Bcomp’s composites offer a sustainable alternative to traditional carbon fibre, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 85% at similar stiffness, and improve safety in motorsports thanks to a breaking behaviour without sharp shattering, a safety aspect that is especially relevant in bumper-to-bumper racing,” they added.

NASCAR Gives The Brush-Off To “Woke” Controversy…

If anyone is surprised by the EV Prototype launch, they haven’t been paying attention. Back in 2022, CleanTechnica sniffed out rumors of an EV makeover for NASCAR, following FIA’s introduction of an all-electric Formula E series in 2014.

That rumor is still a rumor, though the EV Prototype suggests that an all-electric race is on NASCAR’s to-do list, perhaps on the level of a showcase.

More to the point, NASCAR used the new electric car to publicize its sustainability efforts, in collaboration with ABB. If that’s not a pie in the face of the “anti-woke” crowd, I don’t know what is. Republican officials have linked a made-up bogeyman called “woke capitalism” to attack investing and business principles that prioritize sustainability and renewable energy, but apparently NASCAR did not get the memo.

“ABB becomes the first Official Partner of NASCAR Impact, the sanctioning body’s platform driving NASCAR’s mission to strengthen its communities and contribute to a healthier planet, and together will work to advance NASCAR’s strategic sustainability ambitions across electrification,” the organization explained.

“The objective of the collaboration between NASCAR, ABB in the United States and the NASCAR industry is to push the boundaries of electrification technology, from EV racing to long-haul transportation to facility operations,” NASCAR EVP Ralph Donati emphasized.

…And DEI Haters, Too

NASCAR is also not backing down from its commitment to DEI (diversity, equality, inclusion) programs. Some high profile businesses (looking at you, Tesla and Tractor Supply Co.) have backed down from their DEI commitments, but NASCAR continues to maintain a Diversity and Inclusion web page devoted to DEI programs including internships, driver development, and supply chain diversity.

The organization has some cleaning-up to do following its 20th century roots, and some NASCAR fans did not seem inclined to help on the heels of a controversial incident in 2020. However, NASCAR has been persistent, and persistence can pay off. On March 13, Cian Brittle of the news organization SportsPro noted that NASCAR viewership was up earlier this year, while Formula 1 dropped off a cliff and IndyCar turned in a “lukewarm debut.”

More recently, on June 12th, Brittle reported that NASCAR events airing on Fox and FS1 have scored a year-on-year increase of 1%. That may seem like not much to crow about, but Brittle notes that it’s the first increase since 2001, which is 23 years ago for those of you keeping score at home. The positive showing occurred despite a miserable weather-related turnout for the Daytona 500.

What do you think? If NASCAR stages a 100% electric car race, will it attract more viewers? And what about the secret/not-so-secret Ford “skunkworks” electric car project — will that be unveiled at a NASCAR event? If you have any thoughts about that, drop a note in the comment thread.

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Photo (cropped): With a Crossover Utility Vehicle profile and three electric motors, the new NASCAR-ABB electric car collaboration supports NASCAR’s dedication to keeping the “stock” in stock car racing (courtesy of NASCAR).


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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3384 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey