Electric Volkswagen ID.R Racer Sets New Record At Nürburgring

can be reached at bradley@bradleyiger.com
can be reached at bradley@bradleyiger.com
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Volkswagen came, saw and conquered the Green Hell with all electric power. Not only did they smash the electric car record at the Nurburgring, they showed up all but one gas-powered car.

  • Volkswagen ID.R is a prototype electric vehicle built for no other reason than to demonstrate the capability of EVs.
  • First, the ID.R conquered the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado and just recently set a new record for purpose built EVs at the nurburgring.
  • The ID.R is still significantly slower than the overall record holder, the Porsche 919 Evo. We are forced to wonder how long VW will live with that.

Making good on the promise they made back in April, Volkswagen recently tackled the famed German race track with their ID.R all-electric race car and returned a blistering lap time of 6:05.336 with French racing driver Romain Dumas at the helm. The figure is a significant milestone not only due to the fact that it makes the ID.R the quickest all-electric vehicle to lap the Green Hell, but also because it’s second quickest lap ever recorded at the Nordschleife, period.

It’s not the ID.R’s first time making history, either. Last June the Volkswagen Motorsport team brought the ID.R to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs, Colorado and posted a time of 7:57.148. It was the first sub-eight minute run up the hill ever recorded, giving the VW the outright record amongst all race classes, EV or otherwise.

While the team has already set its sights on the next challenge, China’s winding “Heaven’s Gate” road, their record at the Nurburgring may prove to be the most enduring achievement in the ID.R’s legacy. Here’s why.

First, let’s put that time in perspective. While 6:05.336 is still a far cry from the overall record of 5:19.546 set by Porsche last year with the 919 Hybrid EVO, a modified LMP1 race car, it’s nearly forty seconds quicker than the current production car record holder, the Lamborghini Aventador LP770-4 SVJ, as well as the former all-electric record holder, the road-legal Nio EP9. It’s also worth noting that the ID.R’s time takes the second spot overall from the Porsche 956, a purpose-built Group C sports-prototype that had held the position since 1983.

Still, it’s reasonable to expect that with ongoing improvements in technology, particularly in the realm of race tire compounds, times will inevitably get quicker. And the track itself is also faster than ever due to some key changes made in 2016 following an incident that forced track officials to impose speed limits on the course for over a year. Those temporary speed limits, which restricted the pace to 124 mph between the sections of Hocheichen to Schwedenkreuz and 155 mph on Döttinger Höhe – ostensibly a 1.5-mile-long straight – prevented any meaningful lap record attempts during that time. They also serve to highlight why the ID.R’s lap time is so impressive, and that the car may be capable of an even faster lap in the near future.

Instant torque, as we all know, is one of the highlights of all-electric propulsion. It’s one of the reasons that Tesla’s Model S can make cars like the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon sweat at the drag strip. While this makes electric vehicles ideal for brief straight-line sprints, they’re less well-suited to road courses due to the greater emphasis on top speeds as well as the sustained load on the powertrain.

With an electric motor at each axle offering a combined output of 670 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque the ID.R, which weighs less than 2500 pounds, lives up to EV expectation with a 0-60 mph dash of just 2.25 seconds. But the Nurburgring has become the metric for overall vehicle performance because of the wide skill set a vehicle needs to return a fast time there – the brakes, suspension, cooling systems, and other key components are pushed to their limits over the 12.9-mile course as well.

Cooling has long been the Achilles heel of all-electric performance – it’s one thing to ask for maximum performance from an electric powertrain for a few seconds, and quite another for more than six minutes. Interestingly, the telemetry on Volkswagen’s video of the record run indicates that while the ID.R achieved speeds of nearly 170 mph early in the lap on some of the faster sections of the course, by the time the ID.R reached Döttinger Höhe near the end of the lap – where the car can run basically flat out for more than a mile – the car never exceeds 155 mph, and actually begins to slow down slightly while still traveling down the straight. For comparison, the Lamborghini Aventador LP770-4 SVJ reached speeds of roughly 190 mph through this section despite being more than 39 seconds slower overall.

Whether this is a limitation created by the ID.R’s battery, or cooling systems, or something else entirely remains a mystery. But what is clear is that while the car is incredibly capable now, it also appears to be just a technological solution or two away from significantly lowering its own record-breaking lap time.

Will the ID.R return to the Nurburgring to give the 919 Hybrid EVO a run for its money in the not-too-distant future? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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can be reached at bradley@bradleyiger.com
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