Electric. I’ve already lost some of you, haven’t I? It’s become something of a curse word in rallycross circles in recent years, but like it or loathe it, it’s one we’re going to be hearing a lot more of in the coming seasons.
Last week we heard the first real news regarding eRX2, the replacement for RX2 on the World Rallycross bill from next year. The championship is all-electric and will follow this year’s Projekt E series, and precede a wider adoption of battery-powered vehicles at the top level in the coming years.
The adoption of electric cars should – in theory – help keep OEMs interested, with many mainstream automakers of course heading down that route for their consumer products due to ever-tightening legislation.
Adopting such a major shift however isn’t something that’s done easily. That’s where Andreas Eriksson comes in. The Olsbergs MSE boss has been at the forefront of every series and every major moment in modern rallycross. eRX is no exception.
Olsbergs MSE, working with Spanish electromobility experts QEV Technologies, have developed the eRX2 car and right from the off it was designed to negate one of the biggest hurdles brought about by electric racing – cost.
“We’re trying to do exactly the same [as RX2], but in an electrical way, because we have to go electrical but I thought everything with Projekt E was too expensive,” Eriksson told DirtFish, referring to the new-for-2020 series that will be on the World RX undercard. “We can’t have cars costing €375,000. It doesn’t work. So we changed that.
“I’ve done what I think is the best way forward for young people, together with the FIA, with the best people on electrical knowledge when it comes to motorsport and the competition is there – you can run a whole season for €150,000, that’s top.
“But I also need to show everyone that the RX2 car is the last step before you get into Supercars and it’s not the first step.
“We have five classes before Lites and that is what we need to tell people. Everyone thinks that Lites or RX2 is the step in, it’s not. But to step from €150,000 to a million Euros, it’s completely stupid, so what I’m trying to do now is fighting to get the costs down. We’ve done a fully FIA-approved car, FIA-approved series.
“Electric is a big step and obviously people don’t like it, but they don’t like it because it’s going the wrong way price-wise. But if it comes in the right way and gets cheaper… everybody wants an environmentally-friendly car if it’s fast. Everybody wants to be environmentally friendly and it’s important, but if you come in with something similar speed, twice as expensive, there are no synergies and it’s hard.”
On that speed point, the instant torque of an electric drivetrain opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The new eRX2 car is already on par with present-day Supercars, despite it being a junior category machine. And with cheaper junior cars offering other-worldly performance, it can pave the way for future top-level cars that not only show impressive numbers, but cost significantly less, too.
“We try to do electric cheaper, and faster,” Eriksson said. “The car we’ve built is a lot faster than RX2 cars today. They’re faster than a Supercar, but they’re also cheaper. They’re in the same price range as an RX2 car.
“If we can do that, keep the prices down, and then make everything completely nuts with a thousand horsepower, 1500 newton-meters [of torque], incredible acceleration, I think everyone will love that.”
‘But what about the sound?’ I hear you cry. Well, that’s been thought of too.
“What I’ve done as well on the junior car now, together with QEV, we’ve done the gearbox and everything where it’s very strong and we have a lot of sound, so when these cars are coming out there’s a lot more sound,” he said.
“People say there’s no sound – yes, in a Tesla when you drive on the road, you don’t want sound. You don’t want sound in your Audi RS4 either, you want it to be quiet. You only want it to be fast. With the race car you can make more noise.
“There’s a lot of people that love the sound of the Group B cars – me too – but my kids never experienced that. They experienced that through me. So we need to do a Group B era, something completely nuts.”
Make no mistake, the new “completely nuts” electric cars will be impressive in their own unique way, but what about the vast array of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars still out there? In particular Eriksson’s RX2 cars that have served on the World, Nordic, and US, stage for almost a decade now.
Well, if you’re an electric skeptic that has managed to read this far without angrily closing the page or sending me or Mr. Eriksson hate mail, here’s your reward.
ICE cars will still be around for quite some time, and RX2 is sticking around as well – despite being relegated to a single-event shootout this year because of coronavirus complications.
“I still think ICE cars will stay for some time – this [electric] will take five to 10 years before it’s being [widespread] and during that time it needs to stay ICE cars as well,” Eriksson insisted, adding that RX2 as we see it today will even remain in some form.
“We are looking at options, we are not ‘finishing’ RX2, we are maybe not running with the world championship – we’re running [there] with the eRX2 cars,” he said.
“I’m trying to make RX2 continue in some form back in RallyX [Nordic] instead because the combustion cars will stay for five to seven years more.
“People think we’re abandoning it. Not at all. We’re making sure that everyone has their value for money.”