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Behind the Scenes With Projekt E

E-racing365 takes a look at rallycross’ affordable solution to electric motorsport…

Photo: Teddy Morellec

E-racing365 was recently invited to PS Racingcenter Greinbach, near Graz, Austria, to experience STARD’s new electric rallycross car that will form the basis of Projekt E in 2020.

Announced earlier this year, Projekt E will be a fully electric support series to the FIA World Rallycross Championship, running at five of the series’ European events in 2020 as a precursor to the electrification of World RX’s top Supercar class in 2021.

Projekt E will utilize a common powertrain platform designed by STARD, the development department of Stohl Group, a Vienna-based company that also fields Ford Fiestas in World RX.

All cars in Projekt E will use STARD’s REVelution platform, the product of several years’ development work and designed to fit into almost any existing rallycross or rally car.

For demonstration purposes, the kit has been fitted to one of the same Ford Fiesta MK8 ST body shells and chassis that STARD uses with its current petrol-powered World RX Supercar entries.

As part of last week’s exclusive Projekt E media event, e-racing365 was given a behind-the-scenes look at the car, insight into its technical details and the development of Projekt E by senior staff at STARD and World RX promoter IMG Motorsport, and passenger laps around Greinbach’s rallycross track.

Photo: Teddy Morellec

Twice as Powerful as Formula E: Projekt E’s Unique Technical Setup

The basis of Projekt E is a specific design of STARD’s REVelution platform, which consists of all the powertrain parts required to fit into an existing chassis and body shell.

The platform can accommodate up to four motors but Projekt E will use just three 150 kW units, with one on the front axle and two on the rear, creating a four-wheel-drive layout and a combined power output of 450 kW (603 hp).

This amounts to a similar power output as current ICE-powered Supercars in World RX’s top class, but, owing to the nature of electric powertrains, Projekt E cars will have more torque (1100 Nm) and a marginally quicker 0-60 mph time (1.8 seconds).

There is no physical connection between the two axles, meaning separate but identical transmission units are used on each axle. The transmissions are an exclusive unit designed by STARD and their two-speed setup allows for flexibility in their deployment.

This is one of the reasons why STARD says its powertrain can be used for a variety of different uses, such as this weekend when the car will make its race debut in a street race in Bucharest.

“We can run with upto 18,000 rpm input speed from the motors and we can mount two motors on one transmission and huge range of ratios to cover different motors and different speed ranges in different racing categories,” explains STARD CEO Michael Sakowicz.

The car’s battery is arranged in an L-shape, filling the floor area under the temporary co-driver’s seat and behind both seats. Its charging time with AC power is 116 minutes, but this could be reduced to as little as 15 minutes using DC fast-charging.

It allows for a range of 10-12 laps on a standard rallycross track, the same as with existing petrol-powered Supercars, without adding too much additional weight: a Projekt E car will weigh around 1480 kg.

Photo: Teddy Morellec

Filling the Void of Affordable Electric Motorsport

“There is no area for smaller and private teams to enter the world of electric motorsport, with a proper performance level, so we came up with a concept,” says Sakowicz.

A major part of Projekt E’s philosophy is to offer an affordable solution for teams to electrify their motorsport efforts, and by providing comparable performance levels to World RX Supercars at a fraction of the cost, it’s easy to argue that STARD has achieved this.

STARD sells its powertrain kit for €194,740 ($217,430), and the costs of fitting this into a car, which could be from effectively any manufacturer, would allow teams to build a complete car for around €300,000 (€335,000).

For comparison, a current ICE World RX Supercar comes in at approximately €500,000 ($558,000). What’s more, an ICE Supercar’s rebuild and running costs are estimated to be around 60 percent higher than for a Projekt E car.

“The focus on the kit and the work we have done in the past few years to bring this together was to fill the niche of customer electric motorsport,” Sakowicz says.

“There is Formula E, there is Extreme E coming. They are all very nice and very interesting racing series but the price tag that comes with it is likewise interesting!

“[Our platform] might not be the lightest, it might not be the most powerful, but as we see on the market, it’s by far the most affordable and the most robust and reliable system. This is why we put together the REVelution powertrain and why we are focused on the versatility.”

To further increase affordability, a team could simply recycle an existing rally or rallycross car and retrofit the electrification kit without having to purchase a brand-new car.

“Our kit fits practically any rally or rallycross car at the moment so you could even take an R5 bodyshell and race it with the Projekt E kit,” Sakowicz adds.

Photo: Teddy Morellec

Use Road Car Motors to Increase Road-Relevance, Keep Costs Down

A key detail of Projekt E, and something that STARD and IMG Motorsport hope will further attract teams, is the possibility of running motors from almost any electric road car.

STARD’s platform is built to allow for customers to use mass-produced road car 150 kW motors instead of its own product, within the remainder of its common powertrain.

While mass-produced road car motors offer a more affordable solution, the setup also helps customers to receive a level of manufacturer support by using an element of a brand’s EV road cars within their rallycross cars.

“On both sides, we have a good contact with manufacturers from out past projects and not one person, manufacturer or potential customer has said they’re not interested in this,” says Sakowicz.

“This is one of the key factors that we can offer. I don’t see that you have any other option to run road car electric motors in a motorsport environment, competing against each other, especially at such a high performance level.”

STARD will require permission from the manufacturer if a customer wants to run OEM motors in its cars, and then use its own VCU unit and motor controller to ensure that each motor’s power and torque levels are equal.

“We understand the importance for manufacturers that if any of their products are used, they have to be used in the right way and by the right people,” Sakowicz explains.

“Then there is a specific package to engineer the motors to fit our kit. This is depending on the detailed motor, there are costs involved and there is engineering to be done. It’s important also to say that road car motors are very cost efficient because they are mass produced.

“In a retail dealership, the usual price of such motors range from €4000-6000 ($4470-$7000) per motor. If you imagine that you have support from the dealer, that price will reduce even more.”

Photo: Teddy Morellec

Early Adopters: Ten Years in the Making

STARD and parent company Stohl have been working on an electric motorsports program for a decade now, placing the Austrian firm as an early adopter of electric racing.

Its first development project came in 2007 when it built a rally car powered by compressed natural gas, which set it on the path of exploring opportunities with other alternative energies.

“We started having an idea of why not build an electric rally car back then, not even rallycross yet, and we have worked on this topic since 2009 actively,” recalls Sakowicz.

“It took quite a while to get the tech together, to get the experience and also get the funding to build cars.”

Its first electric rally and rallycross car, based on a Peugeot 207 S2000, was presented in 2016 as a precursor to its REVelution project.

Sakowicz admits that the main draw to electric propulsion wasn’t initially anything to do with sustainability but because Stohl technicians saw the “superb qualities” of an electric powertrain setup and benefits it has over conventional ICE designs.

“The motor, in itself, is compact, high torque, high speed and very efficient, so for us it was clear this has to be the future,” he said.

“Back then, we didn’t have that much backing but I think today we can say it has changed a little bit!”

Photo: Teddy Morellec

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist who is e-racing365's Managing Editor and also European Editor for Sportscar365. He is a student of Politics and International Relations. Contact Jake

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