Don Panoz and Green4U Racing have brought a prototype of an all electric endurance racer to Le Mans this weekend. The car has two electric motors and a slide-out battery pack that can be replaced during pit stops in about the same amount of time needed to refill the fuel tanks of conventional racers.
Don Panoz is a lot like Elon Musk. He is a dreamer with a the soul of a business leader. Way back when, Panoz invented the trans-dermal patch that allows for the slow release of medication into the blood stream, a product familiar to many people trying to break the curse of nicotine addiction. Having made a pile of money from that discovery, he transitioned to his first love — automobiles and racing.
Panoz and Nissan got involved a few years ago in the DeltaWing project that saw one of the most innovative new race car designs in recent years take to the track. Later, the two companies wound up in court, squabbling about how owned what.
In the end, they discovered they were fighting over nothing, as the DeltaWing concept faded into a distant memory. Panoz has flirted with the idea of building street cars based on the DeltaWing concept, but nothing has come of those flights of fancy.
The concept endurance racer is called the Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV and is being developed at the company’s design and engineering hub in Braselton, Georgia. It is painted in shocking green, which is appropriate on so many levels.
“We’re debuting it here at Le Mans because of this iconic race’s history where the brightest and most ambitious and tenacious competitors always push the motorsports and automotive boundaries,” said Panoz. “We pushed the boundaries when we brought Sparky [the 1998 Panoz Q9 GTR-1 Hybrid] and the DeltaWing to Le Mans, and we’ll do the same with the all-electric GT-EV.
Jack Perkowski, Green4U Technologies CEO and co-founder told the press in France, “Our goal is to run our car in a race, perhaps even applying for a future Garage 56 slot, and apply what we learn to our Green4U EV vehicle designs. The development of an all-electric race car that can compete with the best internal combustion engine race cars places Green4U at the forefront of electric vehicle technology.”
The Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV team is led by Brian Willis, who is vice president of engineering and design. He said the car will have a top speed of 180mph, a range of up to 110 miles under race conditions, and total battery power of roughly 450 kilowatts.
“Our team is focused on achieving the speed and range of current road racing sports cars,” said Willis. “Key is the ability to go as far as petrol and hybrid race cars on the power contained in a single battery pack, then exchange the battery in about the time that it takes them to refill their tanks.” The car will feature active aerodynamics, regenerative braking, and way approximately 2,200 lbs, including the battery.
ACO, the sanctioning organization for Le Mans, is a strong supporter of innovation. Today’s Prototype race cars feature advanced powertrains that combine internal combustion engines with advanced hybrid systems that harvest electrical energy from regenerative braking and engine heat.
It has a special category called Garage 56 that allows cars that do not meet all the current rules to race as experimental vehicles. Not so long ago, the hybrids of today were Garage 56 candidates. Perhaps someday, all electric cars like the Green4U Panoz Racing GT-EV will also move out of the realm of dreams and into the mainstream at the famous race track in La Sarthe, France.