NIO EP9’s Record-Setting Nürburgring Time Is Just What EVs Need

5 months ago by Nelson Piquet Jr. 24

This is how you drive desire.

Nelson Piquet Jr. is a former Formula 1 and endurance racing driver who now drives for NextEV in the all-electric Formula E racing series. His incredible driving skill helped him win the inaugural Formula E championship in 2015. Piquet will now be contributing a series of columns to InsideEVs called “Powered by Piquet: E-Columns,” which focuses on electric vehicles and how the technology is moving from the track to the streets.

On May 12, 2017 NIO EP9 Breaks the Nurburgring Nordschleife Lap Record – 6m 45.900s

Last week we saw a pretty amazing landmark in electric vehicle performance, with the NIO EP9 setting a new lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. With Peter Dumbreck driving, it lapped in six minutes, 45.9 seconds – 2.1 seconds faster than the previous best set by the Radical SR8LM in 2009.

Because of everything I’ve seen happening with EVs over the past three years of racing in Formula E, I’m not at all surprised that this happened. For sure, if I’d seen the NIO EP9’s time without my first-hand experience, I would have been a lot more surprised, but with everything I can see and with the technology developing the way it is, it’s obvious that an achievement like this isn’t the boundary. Electric drive technology is going to get better and the cars are going to get faster.

What did surprise me is how much my father – three-time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet – enjoys and likes electric cars. He has bought two already, and when he saw the videos of the lap and the record being broken, he was like: “I want that car! I want that car!”

And I was like: “Ok, calm down dad.” The EP9 is a prototype tipped for a super-limited production run of up to 10 cars priced at around $1.5m each. But to see a guy like him – a guy who’s so old-school and ‘mechanical’ – being so all over these things is much more shocking to me than the results they’re  getting.

The performance progress we’ve made in three seasons of Formula E offers an indication of some of the advances. For example, if you take into account that the tires we’re running now are designed to be slower, with a stiffer compound, than the ones we had for season one, we’ve gained roughly two seconds per lap in vehicle performance. There were a lot of gains over the first two seasons of racing and some teams jumped forward faster than others, so it’s not linear and it’s not the same for everyone – but you can see potential for big gains to be made with technology.

It’s harder to say what landmarks like the EP9’s lap record mean for the wider car-buying public, because a shift from a ‘gas’ car economy to an EV culture is going to take time. But the advances are everywhere in racing: there are new electric karting records being set; in the World Endurance Championship hybrid cars are much more efficient than anything that’s raced in that category before. And as these things keep popping up, people are going to be less and less surprised at what EVs can achieve. They’re going to start seeing they’re good for the environment; they’re going to start seeing that EVs are more comfortable and actually easier to drive, and that it’s cheaper overall not to have to refuel a car all the time.

But this takes time because we’ve had a whole century of the internal combustion engine and nothing changes overnight. It’s been maybe five years since cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla’s electric cars started to get really popular, so I’d give it another five years before EVs become properly mainstream and everyone goes “Woah! I want that car! I want that car!”
 But it could be a bit like mobile phones, when they went from being something that only a few people had, to everyone owning one.

In some ways it feels like that from inside the championship, because of the growing car manufacturer interest. It’s not quite there with the public yet, but the manufacturers are pushing hard to be involved. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes have all shown interest in entering in the near future, joining already-involved manufacturers like NextEV, Renault and Jaguar. Their commitment just underlines how much credibility there is around Formula E and EVs right now. And it’s only going to increase.

Editor’s Note: Our parent company, Motorsport Network, owns a share in Formula E Holdings Limited, the commercial rights holder of the FIA Formula E Championship. This fact does not influence our independent editorial coverage of Formula E.

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24 responses to "NIO EP9’s Record-Setting Nürburgring Time Is Just What EVs Need"

  1. One says:

    I get the idea it’s a bit hard for most Americans (majority here?) to really understand what this means in Europe at least. I guess it’s just the exact same thing we Europeans feel when Americans talk about drag racing… boring

  2. Nada says:

    Absolutely… having an EV supercar beat all of the worlds established ICE supercars cannot be ignored…

  3. pjwood1 says:

    Welcome Nelson P. Jr.! Seeing Dan Neil’s (of WSJ) recent Formula E test drive sure didn’t make those cars look easy.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Yes, we are very excited to have Nelson on board with the team here at IEV (this is actually his 2nd piece); giving not only his insights into racing in the Formula E, but also bringing his close association/access with NIO to readers.

      Now we just have to wait on making that NIO EP9 vs Tesla Model S P100DL 1/4 mile battle happen, (=

  4. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Agreed!

    EV needs to shatter all the stupid myth out there. Tesla has shattered most of them. Nio now shattered the race track myth about EVs.

    Way to go!

  5. orinoco says:

    I’d like to know if Sabine Schmitz, the “Queen of Nürburgring”, member of the Frikadelli¹ racing team, thinks that electric race cars like the NIO EP9 without a drop of gas are as disgusting as a vegetarian burger without any meat (as she stated in a recent TV interview)

    ¹ Frikadelle: german for burger

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Pretty obviously a case of “sour grapes” on her part.

    2. G2 says:

      Sabine is a pretty amazing driver, but her bread is buttered by BMV (W) so don’t expect her tune to change until BMV puts an electic M5 under her butt to drive.

  6. Harold T says:

    Welcome Nelson, Great to have a racer’s perspective. I watched your father race and you in F1, so it’s great to see the link to InsideEV from a racer. I just go rid of my last ICE and am loving my Soul EV. The Drive is so much better.

  7. Doggydogworld says:

    Great article. I agree it’s a big deal. Tesla blows everyone’s doors off 0-60, but sports car snobs sniff that it’s no good on the track. NIO shatters that myth.

    I hope to see their 4-motor approach with torque vectoring trickle down into Teslas and mainstream performance EVs.

    1. floydboy says:

      Myths aren’t shattered so easily. You should read the excuses over on Youtube! Reality makes for some limber contortionist!

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        But — but — but — it doesn’t count if it’s not burning dead dino juice! /snark
        😀 😀 😀

        It was a sad day last week for gearheads… and a day of rejoicing for EV enthusiasts!

        The EV revolution is accelerating!

    2. Will Davis says:

      given that tesls model s isn’t a sports car, sports car snobs need to get real

  8. unlucky says:

    Still interested in finding out who actually built it. John Hindaugh didn’t quite let the cat out of the bag. It wasn’t built by NIO.

    NIO has done a good job with the PR on this vehicle. Sometimes you do something amazing and no one notices. They are ensuring that doesn’t happen here.

    1. Nix says:

      NextEV is the car maker. Nio is their sub-brand. Like Acura is to Honda.

      1. unlucky says:

        NextEV did NOT make this car either. They paid a British race car maker to make it.

        Their other, less performant cars will be made by NextEV/NIO.

        1. unlucky says:

          I should say they paid a British car maker to design and make it for them. John Hindhaugh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hindhaugh) saw one at the factory in the British Midlands but he would not reveal who designed/made it because NextEV/NIO does not want anyone to do so. Peter Drumbeck (the driver who drove it) also didn’t reveal it. Nelson Piquet surely knows also and he also hasn’t told us and won’t.

          1. pjwood1 says:

            To launch into speculation, the British makers are warming to EV faster than the German ones. There’s Andy Palmer, at Astin Martin. Jaguar is in Formula E. McClaren? Williams?

            What would be a shamefully ironic would be if Porsche’s production of the Mission E started, and they got beaten by an EP9 that never saw “production”.

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “Piquet will now be contributing a series of columns to InsideEVs called ‘Powered by Piquet: E-Columns,’ which focuses on electric vehicles and how the technology is moving from the track to the streets.”

    Wonderful!

    Congratulations to InsideEVs for attracting such an invaluable contributor.

    “…the NIO EP9 setting a new lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. With Peter Dumbreck driving, it lapped in six minutes, 45.9 seconds – 2.1 seconds faster than the previous best set by the Radical SR8LM in 2009.”

    Okay, I admit to some confusion here. Does that mean the new record is the fastest lap ever for an EV? Or does this beat the best time for a gas-burner too? If it’s the latter, then it certainly is a sit-up-and-take-notice event!

    In the past, a lot of auto makers established or improved their reputations for excellence in engineering by sponsoring racing teams. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the technology developed for race cars did trickle down to mass produce cars.

    Let’s hope that this will also become a tradition for EV engineering!

    1. BenG says:

      The EP9 set the record for fastest lap by a “production vehicle”, beating a Lamborghini that held the record before.

      Not sure that EP9 is really a production vehicle, but still a cool mark to set.

      1. unlucky says:

        There’s no way it’s a production vehicle. Not even when they go back and make 10 more. It will never be in wide production.

        It’s being made by a race car company in tiny numbers.

        This is the fastest time by ANY EV on the Nordschleife. It doesn’t beat every gas car. But it beats a heck of a lot of them. Of the cars that look like it (similar to Le Mans prototypes) it doesn’t beat any recent one. However, it was run without full power output, it can do up to 1MW (1300HP) and it was below 1000HP for this. So it’ll go faster later.

        1. pjwood1 says:

          Wiki lists a Le Mans style 956 Porsche (similar to 962) doing a 6:11 lap. I think F1 / Indy cars wouldn’t be able to handle the “Green Hell’s” bumps, and bringing ~12 miles up to modern regulations won’t be $$ happening. It’s no less fascinating the car was only 34 seconds behind a full-blown, IMSA winning, GTP racer.

    2. Nix says:

      It is in a bit of a grey area, and it isn’t like there is an actual official list maintained by the N-ring themselves. Car makers or car owners just issue a press release and (usually) a video to prove their claim. Then people who like to keep lists add them to whatever list they like to keep.

      In theory, it would be the fastest street legal production vehicle. (As opposed to fastest race car — pure race cars like F1 race cars have done the ‘ring faster.)

      But ‘ring die-hards will question whether the EP9 is really “in production” yet, which is somewhat valid since so few EP9’s exist.

      Some people like to keep their lists pure, and won’t count this until there are street legal production cars sold in enough numbers that they consider it a production street vehicle.

  10. unlucky says:

    I keep referencing Drumbeck and Hindhaugh talking about this. You can just listen for yourself on Midweek Motorsport Series 12 Episode 19.

    Go here.

    http://www.radiolemans.co/2017/05/17/midweek-motorsport-s12-e19/

    And start playing at 46:00 to hear a phone interview with driver Peter Dumbreck who piloted these laps. They discuss the car, him driving, whether it’s production, how much practice he needed to drive it well, whether it was running at full power, etc.

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