When I wrote earlier this year that Ford would be bringing its electric Supervan to Pikes Peak for the 101st hill climb, I assumed it would mostly be the EV Supervan we’ve seen before in various guises. Nope. They’ve almost completely redone it with enough aero to glue the sucker to the moon.
Pikes Peak is hard. It’s 156 turns in just over 12 miles, climbing from just over 9,000 feet above sea level to 14,115 feet above sea level at the finish line. Gas-powered vehicles lose as much as half their power as they reach the top, but heavy electric cars suffer, too, as they struggle to keep their batteries cool enough to deliver maximum power.
That’s to say nothing of what it does to brakes. Imagine trying to get a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds to stop in time for all those tight turns. It’s like the Nürburgring, but straight up and through snow, sleet, hail, wind, rain, or some combination of all the above.
This 4.2 version of the Supervan has been dramatically upgraded for this weekend’s Pikes Peak Hill Climb, where overall record-holder Romain Dumas will attempt to beat his own time of 7:57.148 set in an electric Volkswagen ID.R.
The most obvious change, besides a new paint scheme, is that the “van” has been dramatically reworked aerodynamically. I’m not even sure you can call it a van anymore as the silhouette remains, but the cockpit has been completely shrunken down into something with much less resistance.
Pretty much anything is legal at Pikes Peak, aerodynamically speaking, so there’s a new splitter design that’s designed to increase downforce to 4,400 pounds at 150 miles per hour.
Ford Performance again worked with STARD Advanced Research and Development to make the SuperVan 4.2 and there are some key engineering changes as well.
By reducing the number of STARD UHP 6-phase motors from four to three, and utilizing STARD’s Ultra High Performance Li-Polymer NMC pouch cells, the van achieves an optimal power-to-weight ratio while retaining its all-wheel-drive system with one motor powering the front and two in the rear. With over 1,050 kW (1,400 horsepower) combined discharge power at its disposal, the SuperVan 4.2 can unleash its full potential while also leveraging the battery’s new 600 kW regeneration performance for optimal energy utilization.
While the van no longer puts out the near-2000 horsepower of the previous iteration, the loss of a motor means there’s less weight it needs to lug up the mountain.
The NMC pouch cells are also an interesting touch, and point to Ford trying to maximize its ability to disperse power from the 50 kWh liquid-cooled pack over a short period of time. Unlike a typical EV where range is a concern, the bigger issue for EVs on the mountain is keeping continuous power from the battery.
I’m not sure Ford can beat the ID.R, but a lot has been learned in the last couple of years, so it’s possible. If the SuperVan 4.2 can get a clean run and clear the 8-minute mark that would be incredible.
“The Ford Performance and STARD teams have been hard at work optimizing SuperVan 4.2 for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. From the aero to the revised electric powertrain, I believe our run times on the mountain will be worth tuning in for,” said Mike Norton, who oversees the WRC program for Ford.
If you want to tune in, there’s going to be a livestream this Sunday, June 25th. Even better, get on a plane to Colorado Springs and go see it for yourself. Of all the races I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot) it’s definitely the most unique.
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