All-Electric Car Race Ends in Crash With No Flames, But Plenty of Sparks
Mixing perilous motorsports and environmental awareness sounds cool, but in the end, no amount of earth-loving eco-tech can defy the realities of racing — namely crashing.
The FIA Formula E Championship in Beijing, which only features cars running on electric power, kicked off with the inaugural race of its first season on Saturday, which runs until June 2015. Saturday’s race went smoothly until the end, when a major crash put a damper on the festivities.
As drivers Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost approached one of the final turns, Prost — attempting to prevent Heidfeld from taking the lead — collided with him, sending Heidfeld’s car flying over one of the track dividers.
Luckily, Heidfeld emerged from the crash looking mostly no worse for wear. But he immediately rushed over to confront Prost on the track, proving that the dangerous racing tradition of on-track bluster continues, despite last month’s tragic accident involving Tony Stewart.
“I have a small pain in my calf,” Heidfeld said in a statement on the Formula E website. “But apart from that, I’m perfectly fine.”
Although the number of electric vehicles on the road versus gasoline-powered cars provide a small sample size when determining the relative safety of the two technologies, some studies are pointing to better post-crash safety with electric cars.
According to Insurance Journal, citing National Fire Protection Association data, of the 172,500 U.S. vehicle fires in 2012, which led to 300 fatalities, none of those accidents included an electric or hybrid vehicle.
Tesla founder Elon Musk echoed those sentiments in a statement on his website earlier this year. “The odds of fire in a Model S [an electric car], at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car,” he wrote. “And when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small.”
Together, the companies were able to equip the Spark-Renault SRT_01E cars in Saturday’s race with 200 kW batteries (the equivalent of 270 bhp) — enough power to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds, and reach speeds of up to 140 mph.
Despite the impressive technology displayed during the event, however, the crash may have overshadowed the history-making moment that was Lucas di Grassi’s win in an all-electric vehicle event.
For his part, di Grassi said the crash is a testament to the safeness of electric cars. “I’m happy Nick [Heidfeld] is okay, and it shows how safe these cars are.”
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