T oyota EV P001 - this is the outlook for the future of racing Toyota. The Japanese carmaker wants to finally bury its unfortunate racing past with the hot electric sled. On November 4, 2009, company boss Akio Toyoda announced the exit from Formula 1. After eight years of 139 races, three pole positions, zero victories and an estimated three billion dollars wasted.
Two thirds of the former 800 employees had to leave. The highly qualified remaining workforce, however, knew how to use the resources of the huge facility in Cologne-Marsdorf with the state-of-the-art engine test benches, the complex seven-post rigs for torsion tests and the two wind tunnels Le Mans originated in Cologne. And, as a kind of finger exercise in between, TMG established a fabulous lap record last August with an electric racing car on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.
'The car was built in just four months,' says Ludwig Zeller. With a charming smile, the TMG division manager responsible for electronics admits that an abbreviation was chosen for the chassis. 'We bought a Radical sports car in England and modified it for our purposes.'
Toyota with electric experience from Formula 1
The filigree tubular frame was made up of the engine, transmission and fuel tank freed. Instead, the following components found their way into the Toyota EV P001: two electric motors with a total output of 280 kilowatts, three tailor-made lithium-ion batteries from the German manufacturer Li-Tec with a total capacity of 41.5 kWh and an inverter that takes care of them takes care of converting the DC voltage supplied by the batteries into the AC voltage that electric machines can digest.
The brain of the system is the power electronics. It is housed in a black box. It's barely bigger than two packs of cigarettes. The black box lives under the driver's seat. 'It comes from Formula 1,' says Zeller. 'Through years of dealing with KERS we have learned a lot about electrification.'
The most important core competence of electronics is 'torque vectoring', the optimal distribution of the torque ('torque') of the two completely independently motors working from each other on the rear wheels. 'In this way, we are essentially simulating a mechanical differential,' says Zeller. 'The extreme case would certainly be a rigid drive with the resultthat the Toyota EV P001 would push so hard over the front axle in every curve that it would get the predicate 'undrivable'.
'A little understeer would be nice', said Nordschleife ace Jochen Krumbach when he said he would dared his first fastest time ride with the Radical Toyota electric racer over the legendary 20.8 kilometer route in August 2011. The inboard videos show it: Especially in slow bends, the TMG EV P001 rubs vigorously - and time-consuming - over the front wheels.
Toyota EV P001 at Porsche GT3 RS level
But despite this Safety-maximized setups and despite road-legal tires, the stopwatch stopped after 7,47.794 minutes, corresponding to an average speed of 160.1 km /h. This meant: a record for electric cars. But the electric racing car can also be seen among top-class sports cars: A standard Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 is just 15 seconds faster.
TMG man Zeller is certain: 'It would be 15 seconds faster with an optimized Setup certainly still works. We set the record in the very first timed lap without having undertaken extensive test drives beforehand. '
Driving in the petite electric racer is a very exciting matter. Also because the on-board network works with 590 volts. Trusting that all cables are properly insulated, the reporter is lashed into the cockpit of the Toyota EV P001. The mechanic puts the steering wheel on the hub.
steering wheel? No, it is the angular valance from long past Formula 1 days with at least two dozen buttons and switches on the hub. 'Don't worry,' reassured Zeller. 'Everything is just a dummy. We only took this steering wheel because it is slightly larger than the standard part and because the steering forces are a little less.'
No power steering in the Toyota EV P001
A wise decision: Because the small, not even waist-high Radicals, which occasionally even overcome the road legal hurdle in liberal England, are delivered without a servo. Especially at slow speeds you have the feeling of wrestling with Hulk Hogan. Nevertheless, it is not easy to break a sweat in the Radical Toyota. The driving wind rushes through the open cockpit at hurricane strength. This is very refreshing.
Apart from the enormous steering force, the operation of the EV P001 is very easy: flip the main switch, select the direction of travel with the toggle switch, step on the accelerator. Provided that the TME electronics technician has released full power using the rotary switch on the right cockpit wall, trusting the serenity of the guest in the cockpit, the EV1 starts off as if it had a Saturn 5 solid fuel rocket in the stern.
Subjectively, the acceleration orgy can be compared to the forward thrust of a GT3 racing car like a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. E-cars don't need a gearbox, so the sprint will go through wellno switching maneuvers disturbed. The development of power can best be described with the (grammatically questionable) adjective 'like a rubber band'.
Motor noise is reminiscent of kitchen appliances
The background noise in the Toyota EV P001 takes getting used to: the whirring in the rear is reminiscent of a kitchen appliance. Fortunately, you hardly hear a thing in the cockpit. The wind noise dominates even at medium speeds. The two electric motors have a beneficial effect when braking. They charge the battery and they also decelerate strongly on the rear axle.
The driver can adjust the intensity of the energy recuperation in the cockpit. That's a good thing, because overly heavy loading quickly leads to overbraking in the hindquarters and possibly even to a spin, especially on wet roads.
After the first few kilometers in the innovative Toyota, it is time to take stock. The biggest plus point of the Toyota EV P001 from the driver's point of view is the incomparable acceleration experience. Because of boring eco sledges! This electric racing car is really fun.
You don't have to do without anything that is fun in a racing car - except for one thing: the range is still very small. After a good 50 kilometers, i.e. 20 minutes of rapid travel, the three batteries are empty and there is an approximately two-hour charging break. E-cars will certainly not become winners in the 24-hour race anytime soon.
Toyota EV P001 starts at Pikes Peak
The next goal for the electric racer has already been identified: At the beginning of August, a further developed, even more powerful version of the Toyota EV P001 will be available at the famous Pikes Peak hillclimb in the US state of Colorado at the start.
The electric racer has a trump card up its sleeve for the storm to the 4,300 meter high summit. Unlike cars with internal combustion engines, which lose around 30 percent of their power in the low-oxygen mountain air, the electric motor delivers its 450 kilowatts anytime and anywhere.