Race-prepared Mitsubishi i-MiEV to take on Pikes Peak

Single-seater ‘super-EV’ will be gunning for the hill record

By Gavin Conway on May 18, 2012 5:37 PM

Mitsubishi has released the full specification for its four-wheel-drive pure-electric Pikes Peak record challenger. And it’s quite a piece, with one electric motor driving the front wheels and two at the rear. The car develops the equivalent of 320bhp and wears a carbon fibre body over its tubular frame chassis.

It’s a hell of a challenge – running from July 3-8, the U.S. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the most testing time-trial road races in the world, as well as one of the most dramatic locations on the planet. The hill climb traverses12 miles up the side of a mountain in Colorado, taking in 156 corners over an elevation of more than 4700 feet. The single-seater i-MiEV Evolution will be contesting the Electric Class.

But, as you will have gathered from the picture, this is no ordinary shopping-trolley i-MiEV. While the car, which will be driven by Dakar Rally legend Hiroshi Masuoka – he was the first Japanese driver to win the rally - is based on the running gear of the production model, it is radically altered in order to give it a competitive edge in the pure-electric class, most notably with that 320bhp powertrain.

The Mitsubishi single-seater prototype will be gunning for the current pure-electric record time of 12 minutes 20.084secs held by Pikes Peak veteran Ikuo Hanawa. Hanawa drove a Yokohama-sponsored EV powered by an AC Propulsion drivetrain that put out the equivalent of 268bhp. With its obvious power advantage, the Mitsubishi is looking good for a credible challenge to Hanawa’s record.

There will also be a stock production i-MiEV (just ‘i’ in America) taking a crack at Pikes Peak. It’ll be running the standard car’s 66hp powertrain, but has been modified with a more aerodynamic front bumper and fitted with roll bars and other mandatory safety equipment. The driver will be Beccy Gordon, a successful American off-road racer. But with the best will in the world, this is not going to make for exciting motorsport – it’ll be difficult to imagine who will have more trouble staying awake, the spectators or the driver.

One of the challenges of running a conventional ICE vehicle on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is the dramatic change in elevation and the thinning air as the cars climb higher – at the peak an engine can lose up to 30% of its output. Electric vehicles obviously suffer no such power loss.

So are we on for an outright EV victory on the mountain? ‘Fraid not – last year’s petrol-powered record holder, Nobuhiro Tajima, got to the top in just 9 minutes 51.278secs.

But we do know that pure electric cars are capable of simply colossal performance, like this one (go to 4mins 5secs in, you’ll get the idea).