The NASCAR Next Gen rules package will introduce a ton of new technology to the sport of stock car racing, from center lock hubs to sequential transmissions, but perhaps more importantly, it will also facilitate the eventual introduction of electrified powertrains. The NASCAR Next Gen Chevy Camaro, along with the Ford Mustang and Toyota Camry models it will race against, has been designed with provisions to accept a battery and electric motor – allowing it to be easily converted into a hybrid or, with a little bit more work, a full EV.
For Chevy, the ability for the NASCAR Next Gen car to use a hybrid or full-electric powertrain was an important part of the new rules package, which will be used from the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season onward. Eric Warren, NASCAR program director at Chevy, explained to GM Authority in a recent interview that GM’s Vision Zero initiative will carry over into its racing programs, where it will eventually look to promote its new line of eco-conscious EVs
“(Electrification is) very important,” Warren said. “GM, certainly their vision of zero crashes, emissions, congestion is really all about safety first, right? Looking towards the impact to the environment, certainly that vision is something GM has invested in heavily technology-wise.”
“As I said before, you kind of are limited in the package with (the Generation 6 car). Now with having the transaxle and having a (different) floor, it gives you the ability to look at future technologies.”
GM has now abandoned hybrid production vehicles in favor of EVs, but hybrid powertrains will likely be used as a stop-gap in NASCAR before discussions about going all-electric happen. EV technology still has a long way to go before its race-ready, Warren said – though he’s still thinking of different ways that NASCAR could make battery-electric stock car racing work.
“For us, the length of the races, the cars, there is a lot of technical advances that need to happen to run full EV,” he said. “That’s part of what we’re investing in as a company. We’re investing in having really fast charging, all the technologies that go into that, and then go into the pit. What if I could charge the car up in two minutes, does the race end up being like a football game when you have quarters and halves and things like that? So that’s where we start working with the series, with every race series in the world pushing towards electrification.”
While Warren is already thinking about how all-electric NASCAR race might play out, Chevy won’t be pulling the V8 out of the NASCAR Next Gen Camaro anytime soon. GM’s aggressively pursuing EV tech for its road car business, but for its motorsports arm, battery-electric powertrains are still many years away.
“Because we are aggressively investing in EV as our corporate strategy and vision, people thing that we’ll start racing EVs tomorrow,” Warren said. “But we’re still selling a lot of [vehicles with] internal combustion engines, so we want to introduce it when it’s right for entertainment. And maybe it will serve as a technological push towards very fast charging.”