VW’s electric I.D. aims for the pinnacle with R Pikes Peak

After a 34-year absence, Volkswagen will return to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this June with the I.D. R Pikes Peak – an all-electric race car designed with the goal of setting a new record for one of the world’s toughest motorsports events.

Designed as a showcase of the technology behind Volkswagen’s upcoming I.D. production electric cars, the R Pikes Peak will race up the mountain on June 24th with three-time Pikes Peak champion Romain Dumas at the wheel.

“The I.D. R Pikes Peak represents an extremely exciting challenge for us, to show what is possible in motorsport with an electric drivetrain,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets. “The entire team behind Romain is highly motivated to set a new record for electric cars.”

To meet its goal of a new electric record, the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak car will need to break the current electric-car record of 8 minutes, 57.118 seconds – an average speed of 83 miles per hour, over 156 turns in 12.42 miles. That would also have been good enough to win the race in 2017.

When Volkswagen last raced up Pikes Peak in 1987 with the twin-engine Golf, the winning car finished the course in 10 minutes, 47.85 seconds. Last year, that would have been good enough for 22nd place, thanks to the combination of paving the course to the top of the peak and the march of engineering progress. The current overall course record stands at a blistering 8 minutes, 13.878 seconds.

Dumas says driving Pikes Peak requires a combination of skills and a healthy respect for the challenges of the location. In previous drives, Dumas has needed a supplemental oxygen tank in his cars to help him overcome the rapid change in altitude.

“Nowhere else do you climb so high in a racing car. In the past, the race has sometimes been cut short, because it has been snowing at the summit,” says Dumas. Another challenge: “You only have one attempt. If you have any kind of problem, you have to wait another year for the next opportunity.”

It’s not just the terrain that makes Pikes Peak special. Most motorsports try to gather vehicles of similar abilities, for competition and safety. At Pikes Peak, almost anything goes, from classic American muscle cars to open-wheel buggies and even semi trucks. Last year’s contest drew 78 entries, including two cars originally built in 1969, three electric motorcycles and a heavily customized 2010 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

Electric power will give the I.D. R Pikes Peak some advantages. The high altitude – 14,110 ft. at the finish line – means internal combustion engines have to use forced induction to overcome the loss of power from the thinner air. EVs have no such concern with respect to airflow, although heat buildup, changing aerodynamics from the thinning air and the ever-present danger of running off the mountain apply to all competitors.

Beyond the race itself, the engineering effort will pay off as Volkswagen begins building the next generation of I.D. electric vehicles, with the production version of the I.D. Crozz SUV concept vehicle projected to arrive in America in 2020.

“We want to be at the forefront of electro-mobility with Volkswagen and the I.D. family,” says Dr. Frank Welsch, Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Development. “Competing in the most famous hillclimb in the world with the I.D. R Pikes Peak is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”