Electric Race Car: Win a Lemons Race in Your EV, Get a Million Nickels

By: Lemons Staff Photo Credits: Nick Pon, Murilee Martin
March 4, 2019

In our never-ending quest to push boundaries and/or to cheese off Internet Car Experts, the 24 Hours of Lemons has created a new class for full-electric vehicles. Best as we can tell, the Lemons Electric Class Presented by AltThusiast is the first time all-electric race cars will go head-to-head against internal combustion machines in endurance racing.

The key bits of this new electric race car class are:

  • Powertrain systems and energy storage don’t count toward the $500 cap.
  • Recharging is done in the same area as refueling.
  • Battery swapping is legal.
  • Special electric-car rules are now live: See Section 3.L of the Rulebook.

The first all-electric vehicle to win a Lemons race overall will be paid 1 million nickels. That means your electric race car can earn 50 grand cash. That comes out to roughly 5½ tons of money, if you’re curious.

Electric Race Car

Where Other Have Tried

To date, the 24 Hours of Lemons has featured two attempts at running an electric race car. The first came from Texas racers Hoonatic Racing. In their first attempt, the team’s Datsun 1600—powered by a forklift powertrain—managed a top speed of about 12 miles per hour. That’s not an exaggeration and they were forced to pack it up at MSR Houston in 2013 after 26 laps for being dangerously slow.

The Hoonatic crew spent a year improving both the motor and battery charging. The revamped car entered the MSR race the following year. While it proved much faster with a top speed pushing 50 mph, Lemons safety people banned team’s sketchy homebuilt “supercharger” setup after…26 laps. Consider these an example of how not to pursue the Million-Nickel Prize.

Electric Race Car

Duff Beer Racing have hung around Lemons for most of a decade. Their Honda Civic proved a great platform to learn the ropes in Lemons, but the team soon found a reliable, good-handling car boring. Instead, they build a Jet Electrica 007, a(n ostensibly) factory-built electric-car conversion from the early 1980s. Like Hoonatic’s revised electric car, the Plymouth-Horizon TC3-based Jet Electrica topped out around 50 mph.

Electric Race Car

The Duff Beer guys have also revised their vehicle to include a battery swap once the batteries run out of juice. Unfortunately, they have to charge the batteries with a generator. At Carolina Motorsports Park, that amount of voltage draws the attention of the local fire-ant population. The oft-ant-bitten team managed to complete as many as 170 laps at a race and won Lemons’ (former) top prize, the Index of Effluency.

The Next Step

Of course, the gap is substantial between running 170 laps on electric power only and winning a Lemons race overall. But hey, Lemons racers tend to be a shockingly intelligent group (despite outward appearances). We have no doubt we’ll see some really fantastic attempts at the dump truck fulla nickels.

For more on the surprisingly unsavory birth of all-electric endurance racing, see Section 3.L of the Rulebook (above) and visit AltThusiast.com.

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