Electric Indy 500 Possible By 2030, Says Michael Andretti

APR 28 2015 BY MARK KANE 16

Formula E racer

Formula E racer

FOX Sports wonders if there is any chance for an Electric Indy 500 race in the future.

The article is related to the recent two rounds of Formula E in the US, which got “mixed reviews“:

“Formula E just completed its two-race tour of the United States with events on the streets of Miami and then Long Beach, bringing in mixed reviews.

There are many fans who love the innovation that comes with electric cars opening a new frontier of racing, but a lack of speed, along with lack of a battery charge and the torturous sound of slot-car racing, are issues that keep the sport from being mainstream motorsports.

These are early days for electric car racing and there remains much to improve upon the product.”

Well, batteries still prevent electric cars from releasing full power from electric motors for the whole race and the batteries still will be the bottleneck in the near future. Formula E and other events are just beginning.

The article aptly notes that automotive industry is at a crossroads and that it would be good to establish an electric racing series for developments of new solutions useful for passengers cars.

It will be long journey, but maybe by 2030 we will see electrics at Indy?

Andretti Autosport

Andretti Autosport

Michael Andretti, a team owner in both the Verizon IndyCar Series and Formula E, said:

“It absolutely could be. You never know. It’s amazing what they are coming up with with that technology. When you start getting competition they are going to be building cars that can go 300 to 400 miles on a charge. They have a car now that has 1,000 horsepower. It’s a brute – full electric. It’s coming – cars that can really perform.”

“What’s cool is it’s like 1911 all over again. Look at the cars as being the Marmon Wasp (the car Ray Harroun drove to victory in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911) and what they did in five years. That is what we are hoping to achieve in Formula E – competition is going to accelerate the technology. That is what I’m hoping to see. I’m hoping to see the kid that goes out and buys his first electric car that is what he goes out to buy the rest of his life. We’re not after people like my dad – we’re going after the kids – a new audience.”

And “whiny electric transformer sound” isn’t a problem:

“The sound is something the traditionalists don’t like but my argument to that is one of the problems we have and it’s a big problem trying to bring new events downtown is the noise,” Andretti said. “Noise is actually a problem. We don’t have that problem anymore with Formula E. It’s pollution. This is an all-green series and you have to look at it differently than a traditionalist would look at it. You have to have an open mind.

“Most of the old people don’t but we aren’t after the older guy anyway.”

On the other side, IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal said that Formula E isn’t racing:

“Over the weekend, Rahal said on social media that when it comes to Formula E he is “all for progress but this isn’t racing.” Rahal takes an old fashioned viewpoint of racing that it includes noise, smell, color and even a degree of danger.”

E-Runner Pikes Peak Special

E-Runner Pikes Peak Special

INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker said:

“You can never say never. Is that something we’re working on? No. It’s not in the immediate future.”

“When you look at it you should ask the fans. Do you want to sit around for three hours and listen to electric cars go around that track? Do you want to see multiple cars used to finish the 500-mile race with big charging stations? In 2020 that may be a fact of life. You never say never.”

“Are we looking at that? I would say it’s a stretch too far for us. It’s not where we are looking. We want to keep going on the track we are on so in 2020 it will be a variation on the formula we have now. I don’t think that is what our entertainment venue is about.”

Formula E just began and step by step the cars will be faster and the teams will be able to develop their own drivetrains and batteries. Electric cars will take over racing in city centers, but first we need to kick gas at Pikes Peak (2nd place overall for an electric in 2014), which is the second oldest racing event in the U.S. after the Indy 500. There is nothing to worry about though, as time is on our side.

Source: FOXSports.com

Categories: Racing

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

16 Comments on "Electric Indy 500 Possible By 2030, Says Michael Andretti"

newest oldest most voted
If I understand what they’re saying in this article, that Formula E racers use limited speed and multiple cars to finish a race… What a failure of imagination! I assumed they’d use rapid battery swapping during pit stops. They should do that to unleash the full electric power of EV race cars! With instant response to pressing the accelerator, and much faster acceleration at low speeds, e-racing should be -more- exciting than gas guzzler racing — not less! Re the noise: Okay, let’s be honest here: The full-throated snarl of open wheel race cars is part of the thrill, part of what creates a sense of danger and excitement. That’s not gonna be part of EV racing, at least not unless they add the sound artificially. Not sure what if anything can be done about that… or if anything -should- be done about that. I guess ultimately it’s just a change we’ll have to accept, and the younger generation will have to put up with us old geezers whining about how we miss the thrill of the roaring gas guzzler engines. And kudos for Michael Andretti for noting the positive aspects of lower noise. I live within hearing distance of… Read more »

Noise pollution is one of the most insidious forms of degrading of our environment. Personally I think the advent and implementation of ev transportation will have a large positive effect on peoples and animals lives, and not just from less air pollution, but also a reduction in the cacophony of traffic noise with which most of us are assaulted by on a daily basis.

I live in Vancouver. Enough said. Okay, fine. Some people will have to have a little background for that to make sense. We used to have a formula 1 race here in the downtown core. It ran for some 15 years or thereabouts. But then lots of upwardly-mobile people started buying condos downtown, and it changed the whole neighbourhood. Instead of the middle-to-lower classes that used to populate the region, snooty assholes who can’t tolerate things like “fun” or “noise” and who had the means to bend the city government’s ear decided that the Vancouver Indy had to go. The last year of its running, they tried running the cars with mufflers on, which did a lot to reduce the problem, but clearly, not enough to satisfy those people in the condos. So now we don’t have any auto racing in town. The F1 races were also accompanied by other events for drivers with lesser cars trying to make a name for themselves in the business. And for that one week a year, there was something besides the 1/4 mile track in Mission to race on. Now those kids just race illegally on public roads. So yeah, I live in… Read more »
I would love to see pro racing back in downtown Vancouver. I never made it to the Champcar race back in the 1990’s but my dad said it was pretty awesome. Now that i moved from Alberta its on my doorstep from Vancouver Island. There is a group of people trying to bring Formula E to Vancouver- https://www.facebook.com/FormulaEinYVR As someone that follows F1, IMSA(GrandAm/ALMS), WRC, Champcar/Indycar and NHRA i have to say i quite enjoy Formula E. Yah they are pretty slow right now and the changing car pitstop is a bit of a joke but it has potential. Just look at what is happening in the WEC(world Endurance Championship). Toyota, Porsche, Audi and Nissan are all running hybrid electric gas/diesel race cars and really a gas only car dosnt stand a chance against them right now. If you dont have the extra punch of a electric motor you wont be fast enough. In Formula 1 Hybrid is also the minimum right now. Not sure if its in the rules or if its just an advantage, but everyone is running energy recover systems as far as i Know. I think in less than 5 years the Indycar series will seriously… Read more »

“What a failure of imagination! I assumed they’d use rapid battery swapping during pit stops.”

Or go with inductive charging. A racing oval is the perfect application, since an inductive kick every time it laps, at very high power, could keep it going at very high power draw.

Result: racing without pit stops. What a concept.

You’d still need pit stops to change tires.

But that’s an interesting idea. I’m pretty sure we’ll never see inductive charging on public roads, because it’s massively expensive, and massively inefficient*. But sure, on a dedicated racetrack, it might be worth the expense.

Frankly though, I’d rather see battery swapping. That would make EV racing more akin to current ICE racing, where deciding when to stop for gas is part of a racer’s strategy. It would also be beneficial to developing battery swapping tech, because they’d want to swap those packs FAST FAST FAST — yet safely!

If they do eventually use inductive charging for EV racecars, the jokes about “slot cars” will increase exponentially… 🙂

*Inductive charging is efficient only when the coils are stationary in relation to each other, are quite close together, and are positioned to exactly face each other. Not gonna happen when one coil is in a car moving down the road!

A 500 mile range electric car could allow them to race.

I always wanted to see someone enter a Tesla into the 24 hours of Lemans to see how it would stack up. Tesla could help with ether battery changer or a supercharger.

A battery pack with sufficient capacity to propel a racecar for 500 miles at an average speed of 175+ MPH would be very large and very heavy. That would be the antithesis of what is wanted for open-wheel racing, which is cars which are light, quick to accelerate, and responsive. A heavy car would also be more dangerous to other drivers in case of accident.

Furthermore, any car capable of fast battery swapping would easily beat the car that had to carry a battery big and heavy enough for 500 miles of racing without recharge.


It’s amazing to watch NASCAR or Indy races back in, say the 1970s. Pit stops were much longer. I can see a battery swap in Formula E or Indy E taking a minute or so. This keeps up the tension and excitement in media pit stop coverage, but doesn’t have the lag that driving into the garage and the driver exchanging car does. Have they considered two or more driver teams? First car depletes charge – dives into the pits behind second car which immediately takes off. Three cars could complete a race that is a decent length vs. today’s 1/2 hour or so, sprint. Advertisers and sponsors need more air time to get as much revenue as they can. One more point. Since hybrids have now been embraced by the consumer auto market, why not start to bridge the ICE-to-EV gap by introducing a hybrid racing series? Endurance racing today is dominated at the highest level by hybrids with E-Boost. Whether flywheel-based, battery-electric based or supercapacitor. Technological innovation developed through racing is a large part of the history of the automobile. Perhaps going Tesla-style and all-out BEV for Formula E was a bit premature. The two bookends have been… Read more »

We got the battery exchange pit stops down to about 12 seconds in the Formula Lightning series. It’s a bad idea, though. Even though the cars could easily have raced at reasonable speeds for 100 km or so (with lead-acid batteries), we minimized total race time (maximized average race speed) by stopping every 12 to 16 miles. It just reinforced the notion in the spectators’ minds that EVs can’t go very far.

Sorry, I meant 12 to 16 km.

I love reading about how much time, money and resources major automakers spend on sound. For instance, Mazda techs spend thousands of hours fine-tuning the exhaust note of the MX-5 “Miata” to get that sports car appeal their buyers want. Other examples abound. Volt2 is supposed to emit a sound for safety. Much ado was made when LEAF and Fisker Karma debuted to their sound effects.

Giving E racers an appealing sound shouldn’t be all that difficult. Amplifying the gearbox or just plain simulated turbine sound could really be appealing.

I live in Unlimited hydroplane land. Now known as “H1 Class”. Reaching 200mph+ on long straightaways, these boats used to be called, “thunderboats” due to their usage of supercharged WWII fighter plane 12 cylinder powerplants. In the mid-to-late ’70s, these engines began becoming harder to get and the dawn of the helicopter turbine began. Easier to source and repair, to this day they are the way H1s are powered. I remember the uproar amongst the fanbase, as the thunder became a whine, a whisper compared to the old days. While the hundreds of thousands of fans don’t line the lakeshore, harbors and riverfronts as they used to ( some credit this to the number of deaths the sport racked up before the enclosed cockpit and other innovations became the norm ), the sport still attracts large crowds and entertains them with blistering speed and thrills. Long gone are the memories of the roaring gas mills that traveled for miles away from the race course. I, too was a bit dismayed as that was a part of my childhood. The realities forced change and that change was accepted. New fans to the sport only get a taste of those old boats… Read more »

That’s the way I look at it. Noise and smell aren’t really an essential part of motorsports, it’s just that there’s a cultural association that equates them with power and performance. Noise and smell are really signs of _failure_, because they mean that energy is being lost.

For you guys unfamiliar with H1 Unlimited Hydroplanes – here’s a quick video:



Here’s what it was like in the old Thunderboat days – I witnessed this boat race from the pits, one I consider the best in history.