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2012 MIA Low Carbon Racing Conference, including the Lola-Drayson electric race car unveil

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Drayson Racing Technologies and Lola Group today unveiled the 850 hp electric-powered Le Mans prototype racing car, the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV , at the 2012 MIA Low Carbon Racing Conference at the NEC.

The conference also included a number of interesting speakers and vehicles, all included in this review.

Lola-Drayson electric race car

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Lord Paul Drayson spoke at the MIA conference two years earlier when, in the role of UK Minister for Science and Innovation in the previous government, he challenged the motorsport industry to rise to the challenge of low carbon. At last year’s MIA event he gave a keynote speech about innovation and disruptive technologies being an opportunity for UK motorsport businesses. It now seems that all this has been somewhat of a self-prophecy, as it turns out that he has accepted his own challenge, and he is the innovator that has now introduced disruptive technologies into the industry.

The Lola-Drayson B12/69EV project has progressed from idea to prototype in a matter of months. It is a showcase of British innovation and features advanced green technologies such as inductive charging (ie. the ability to recharge without any cables, currently whilst static when positioned over a recharging pad, but ultimately this could be done whilst on the move); electrical regenerative damping (ie. the dampers generate energy when driving over bumps in the road); composite battery power technology from the TTXGP (the electric bike grand prix); battery control technology from Cosworth; and moveable aerodynamics.

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The car is powered completely by electricity stored in a new generation of highly advanced Lithium Nanophosphate battery cells made exclusively by A123 Systems and used for the first time on the Lola-Drayson racing car.

The dampers, from Multimatic, are a particularly innovative idea, the aim being that they generate sufficient energy to power the active suspension, so they are in effect ‘energy neutral’.

The car will have new aerodynamic features being developed by Lola in conjunction with BAE Systems, and a new recycled carbon fibre technology developed in-house by Lola.

The overall control system for the car will be supplied by Drayson Racing Technologies working in partnership with Cosworth who supplied the original system for the 2010 LMP1 car.

The electric race car, based upon the current Lola LMP1 chassis, weighs 1000 kg, slightly more than the 900 kg of the base LMP1. The car is a demonstration platform designed to showcase green technologies, and to lap race tracks quicker than any other electric race car rather than to compete in endurance races at the moment. It’s expected to be able to race at 200 mph for up to 20 minutes. Lord Drayson pointed out that no-one knows what an electric car sounds like at 200 mph – but we’re soon to find out.

Lord Drayson started his career as a biotech entrepreneur, before moving into government, and now his focus is on green motorsport, in particular using his company and now this car as a ‘laboratory’, presumably something he is familiar with from his experiences within the biotech industry. He aims to make green tech cool and exciting and to inspire people, and he’s definitely succeeding. Paul is also President of the Motorsport Industry Association.

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A recurring theme at this year’s MIA Low Carbon Racing Conference was the need for entrepreneurs to take risks with such projects as electric racing cars, as this wouldn’t happen within the corporate cultures of the big car makers who were represented at the event in the form of Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Technology, Audi Sport; Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team; and Thomas Laudenbach, Head of Powertrain Motorsport, Porsche (see above).

For entrepreneurs such as Paul Drayson who do take the risks and are successful, the rewards are there in the form of potential investment or even buy-out from the big manufacturers.

Delta Wing Racing Car

The Lola-Drayson B12/69EV is designed to compete in Le Mans, although the rules don’t allow for this to happen at the moment. However another innovative project that also doesn’t comply with the rules has been successful in gaining an entry to the 2012 Le Mans event – the Delta Wing Racing Car. This is a project that was presented at last year’s MIA conference by Ben Bowlby, Chief Technology Officer, Delta Wing Racing Cars – another low carbon racing entrepreneur.

Ben, who made a name in racing in the UK, but who is now based in the US, presented his ideas last year for his car. This is a lightweight and aerodynamic racing car that was designed to compete in race series in America, using half the energy of traditional American machinery. Ben was at the conference again this year and updated the audience about the fact that since last year he has also had a breakthrough, as his car has been allowed to run in the 2012 Le Mans race as the first ever ‘experimental’ entry. The car has a petrol engine sourced from a major motor manufacturer, alhough the name of the company has not yet been released. If all goes according to plan, Ben believes his car will provide a huge upset for the mainstream manufacturers involved in Le Mans this year.

Delta Motorsport E4 Coupe

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A different Delta was also on display at the event, the Delta Motorsport E4 Coupe, which Beating Spirit has driven – read our Delta-E-4 Coupe review . Since we drove the car, only a few months ago, Delta has achieved its aim to receive expressions of interests to help take the car to market, and for other consultancy projects.

The car demonstrates the success of the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) low carbon vehicle projects, particularly the way they bring different partners together to collaborate. And on that note, Andrew Everett from the TSB outlined details about the recently-announced £25m low carbon vehicles ‘the road to market’ collaborative R&D competition fund opportunity.

£25m TSB low carbon vehicles ‘the road to market’ collaborative R&D competition fund

The Technology Strategy Board and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles are to invest up to £25m in collaborative R&D and demonstration projects that will accelerate the commercialisation of low carbon vehicles.

The aim is to strengthen UK capability by encouraging a reduction of costs in the supply base and a faster adoption of new technologies on UK roads. The focus is on pulling technology through the various stages of the innovation chain. The TSB is looking to invest in highly innovative projects involving low carbon vehicles that aim to achieve significant cuts in CO2 from road transport.

Proposals must be centered on the vehicle and cover at least one technical area and at least one competition theme as detailed in the brief. Projects must be collaborative and business-led. The TSB expects to award a range of grants from £500k and potentially up to figures in excess of £5m.

This competition opens for expressions of interest on 20 February 2012 . The deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 28 March 2012. The second stage for invited applicants opens on 23 April 2012 and the deadline for completed applications is at noon on 30 May 2012 .

A networking event to encourage consortia-building was held on 10 January 2012 and a virtual networking space has been created – join the TSB IDP7 group here

Two other all-electric racing cars were also on show at the MIA conference, from Formulec and Quimera.

Formulec EF01

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Formulec is based in France, and the company has designed a car to be used in all-electric race series such as the new FIA Formula E world championship for electric racing cars planned for 2013.

Quimera all-electric GT

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Quimera, based in Spain, has developed an all-electric GT prototype which the manufacturer will announce plans for at the Autosport Show, which takes place directly after the MIA Conference at the same venue from 12-15 January.

This year’s MIA conference followed a similar format to last year’s event – read our full report about the 2011 MIA Low Carbon Racing Conference
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Paul Clarke

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