The FIA World Rallycross Championship Goes Electric

The electrification of the world's cars have started, and motor sports are slowly catching up. Soon the FIA World Rallycross Championship will introduce an electric car category.

Electric car sales are increasing around the globe. In the EU, electric car sales were up by almost 35% in Q3 2018, compared to 2017. Norway is a peculiar case. In a country relying heavily on oil and gas production, a whooping 25% of every new car sold in Q3 2018 was an electric car. The main reason for this is that electric cars are heavily subsidized. This makes luxury, all-electric vehicles like the Tesla S affordable compared to similar combustion cars. A total of 11 261 new cars with electric power trains hit the road in Norway in Q3 2018. The same number for Greece was 131.

Looking at the total number of cars sold, however, we’re not seeing an electric revolution. Far from it. The electric car sales only accounted for a measly 1,25% of the total European car sales in Q3 2018.

Can the upcoming electrification of the FIA World Rallycross Championship series help boost the electric car penetration?

Electric World Rallycross

The World Rallycross Championship is not he first FIA series to dabble with electric powertrains. In 2014, the Formula E series had its inaugural race in Beijing. Formula E is an all-electric, single-seater championship, and the races are mostly held on tight, temporary city circuits. This makes the series very accessible for race fans, and that Formula E has attracted some well-know drivers from Formula 1 has also helped boost the championship’s popularity.

In 2017, the news broke that the World Rallycross Championship would also take on electric powertrains. A 2020 target was set for the introduction of electric cars, but the date was later moved to 2021. As you can probably imagine, even talking about electric vehicles sparked some controversy among the World RX audience. The average World RX fan isn’t typically very interested in electric cars, which lack both the sound and smell of petrol associated with car racing.

The good news, then, is that there is no plan to go totally electric and ban combustion engines. The idea is to introduce an electric class, that will race separate from the combustion cars. This means that the petrol heads can close their eyes during the electric class races. Mixing electric and combustion racing cars wouldn’t work out anyway, since the electric cars would have an unfair advantage due to the instant torque of the electric engine.

Five FIA World Rallycross Championship racing cars at the starting line at the 2018 World RX of Latvia.
Cars at the starting line. 2018 World RX of Latvia.

Racing Equals Innovation

Whether or not an eventual electric car class in the World Rally Championship will be a success, remains to be seen. To introduce a separate class to run alongside the existing ones sound like a great idea. I don’t think a separate, electric World Rally Championship would stand on its own legs as well as Formula E does.

No matter how popular the electric car class will become, good things will come out of this. Motor sports have always been a testing ground for new technology. Endurance racing, and the 24 Heures du Mans in particular, are good examples of this. Innovations in fuel efficiency, hybrid powertrains, and lighting technology have all trickled down from endurance racing to consumer cars.

All that said, a World RX electric car class, or the electric car in general for that matter, will not save us from our impending doom. For that, entirely different, and way more controversial measures are needed. But at least we can enjoy some great racing while we’re passively awaiting for the apocalypse2.

  1. This is not a typo. ↩︎

  2. Yes, that escalated quickly. ↩︎


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