Scots racing team creates UK's first electric rally car

It's a sport associated with revs, noise and litres of burning fuel - but one group of Scots motorsports devotees has sought to 'future proof' car rallying for the next generation with the UK's first electric competitive car.
The Project eRally team, based in Fife, has created a prototype from a Renault Zoe EV. Picture: ContributedThe Project eRally team, based in Fife, has created a prototype from a Renault Zoe EV. Picture: Contributed
The Project eRally team, based in Fife, has created a prototype from a Renault Zoe EV. Picture: Contributed

The Project eRally team, based in Fife, has created their prototype from a Renault Zoe EV (electric vehicle) with the car to be fully tested by the sport’s regulatory body, the Motor Sports Association, later this month.

It will go on display on Friday, April 7 at the Future Vehicles Showcase at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival.

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Jean Hay, eRally project co-ordinator, said the idea took shape around 10 years ago as she and Ellya Gold, former British Rally Championship driver, mentored young rally drivers at the Junior 1,000 Ecosse Challenge.

Ms Hay said: “We have been watching these young drivers move into senior rallying and we started thinking about the environmental issues and sustainability of what we do.

“Basically, we wanted to future proof our sport.”

Ms Hay said “huge amounts of rallying fuel” were burnt during a race which “goes against everything we think is good for the environment”.

She added that EVs made “perfect” rally cars with the Zoe eRally designed specifially for the junior driver.

“Because of the way electric motors work, it is perfect for rallying. Power is instant and you don’t have to go through the gears.

“You basically press the throttle and go. Electric cars tend to have double the amount of torque than the equivalent standard combustible engine,” she said.

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Custom-built suspension and wheels have been added to the Zoe eRally as well as safety features, including a roll cage, a fire extinguisher and electric cut off switch.

Around 100kg of the car’s interior has been stripped out to cut weight.

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With the car batteries stored in the floor, the car’s handling is improved given its lower centre of gravity.

It is hoped the company can release the world’s first EV rally fleet next year.

Reaction from the rallying faithful had been “really surprising,” Ms Hay added.

She said: “Their reaction has always been pretty much the same - that this is the future.

Spectators have raised one concern about the electric rally car - the lack of noise from the vehicle.

Ms Hay added: “Rallying fans are used to the sound of the popping and the lagging of the engine and it’s fair to say that is part of the atmosphere. That is something you don’t get with the electric car. You only really get the squeal of the tyres.”

Ms Hay said it could get a little “eerie” if all cars taking part were EV models but added she was sure the speed of the vehicles would make up for the lack of noise.

The car will appear at the showcase with other EV models including the Tesla Model S - which accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 2.5 seconds - and the Nissan Leaf.

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A fleet of electric bicycles will feature at the show case of emission-free vehicles.

ECCI director Andy Kerr said: “Our transport behaviors are changing rapidly as we move to a more low carbon way of life.

“The Scottish Government has pledged an almost complete decarbonisation of road transport by 2050 and as Scotland’s charging infrastructure develops every year and vehicle technology improves to rival traditional options, electric vehicles are becoming an ever more viable choice for businesses and commuters.”

The University of Edinburgh estimates 30% of its Carbon Footprint is from the travel by its staff, students and visitors and has pledged to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2040 by moving all its vehicles to electric fleet.