Mitsubishi MiEV aims high at Pikes Peak

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MITSUBISHI is racing back to the clouds this month for its third attempt at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb title, in a 450kW version of its zero-emissions MiEV electric racer.

The Japanese car-maker just missed out on the number one spot last year, finishing second in the modified electric class behind Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima's E-Runner, but with a 50kW power boost, wider tyres and more downforce, its sights are firmly set on victory in 2014.

Previous versions of the MiEV Evolution race-car bore some resemblance to the i-MiEV production road car on which it is loosely based, but in its third generation, any visual similarity to the compact EV town-car has been lost.

Under the evolved carbon-fibre body and tubular steel space-frame, some original road car components remain, but the two standard drive motors and battery have been tweaked and are joined by two extra motors, each producing more than 112kW.

For 2014 the four-wheel drive system has a revised S-AWC controller, which Mitsubishi claims gives the car more grip over last year's Evolution II and the edge it needs to snatch victory from the competition.

Mitsubishi will take two MiEV cars to what is often referred to as 'the race to the clouds' due to its dizzying finish line at 4300 meters above sea-level – so high even trees ca't survive.

One car will be piloted by two-time Dakar champion Hiroshi Masuoka who drove the Evolution II to second place at last years contest, while the second MiEV will make the climb with six-time Pikes Peak motorcycle class winner Greg Tracy at the helm.

The world's highest race is still dominated by internal combustion engine powered racers, but electric power gives high-altitude racers an advantage over air-dependent powerplants, which may soon see that prominence turned on its head.

Massive turbo-boost pressures partly compensate for the asthmatic breathing of petrol and diesel engines at great height, but the low air-pressure also inhibits its ability to cool radiators and brakes too.

At altitude, a liquid's boiling-point is also lower, meaning hydraulic brake systems vapour-lock and cooling systems boil-over under much lower loads.

With regenerative braking and minimal cooling systems, electric cars like the MiEV have the potential to hit the mountain harder and for longer, so it may not be long before electric technology overtakes the monstrous unlimited class vehicles.

Sebastian Loeb became the current king of the mountain in 2013, after completing the 20 kilometres and 156 turns in just under eight minutes and 14 seconds, setting a new Pikes Peak record in his Peugeot 208 T16.

Last year also saw the modified electric class record broken by Tajima's E-Runner Pikes Peak Special, which now stands at nine minutes and 45.5 seconds.

Mitsubishi North America vice president Don Swearingen said that the challenges of Pikes Peak are a punishing test of relatively new technology.

"Pikes Peak is an excellent laboratory for testing our advanced MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) technology," he said.

"It not only features high elevations but also a range of weather conditions to challenge the performance and reliability of our technology."

This year 13 different classes and about 150 competitors will battle it out on the sheer sides of the Colorado mountain, beginning on June 23 and culminating a week later with the unlimited class.

By Daniel Gardner
www.goauto.com.au

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