EV owners don't arrive to a charger with a timer counting down. But when Volkswagen tackles Pikes Peak in its I.D. R electric racecar, it'll have to race against the clock to charge its batteries, so it's taken a unique approach to juicing up.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb regulations state that, in the event of a run being suspended, electric vehicles have just 20 minutes to replenish their batteries before a second attempt. This required Volkswagen to dig deep into its battery tech, starting with the battery chemistry itself, eventually settling on a lithium-ion battery, which is split and located both next to the driver and behind him.
Instead of using one superpowered charger, Volkswagen instead uses two EV chargers providing 90 kilowatts of charging power. That's less than you'd find in a single Tesla Supercharger, but there's a good reason for that -- heat. A lower charging limit means the battery heats up less during charging.
In the event things get too hot, VW can supply air to the battery to keep it around the sweet spot of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. It can't blast the thing with frigid air, though, because that could create condensation and, with it, a whole host of issues. It's all about taking things just slowly enough to not cause trouble while still meeting the time requirements to charge the battery.
Even the way it generates power is unique. Since Pikes Peak isn't exactly wired for next-gen EV charging, Volkswagen is relying on conventional generators to provide the juice. But instead of a common generator fuel like diesel, Volkswagen is using glycerol, a biodiesel byproduct that's a bit more environmentally friendly. After all, the optics wouldn't be great if VW was dumping diesel into a bunch of generators as it still wades through one of the biggest automotive industry scandals in history. In fact, glycerol powers all the electrical devices in Volkswagen's pit area.
The I.D. R will attempt to capture the electric-vehicle record at Pikes Peak, which covers 12.4 miles of mountain with 156 corners standing between the bottom and the top. The I.D. R uses two electric motors that provide a net 670 horsepower and a 0-60 time of just 2.25 seconds, which is faster than most modern racecars. The run up the mountain takes place on June 24.