We recently witnessed the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), and when the final checkered had flown, the all-electric vehicle you see before you made history. With drifter/rally racer/stunt driver Rhys Millen at the wheel, this car managed to reach the windswept Colorado peak in 9:07.222, becoming not just the fastest car in the Electric Modified Class and the new EV record-holder, but the fastest car in any class, making for the first EV to win the race outright in its nearly century-old history.

Here’s the really wild part – it could have gone a lot faster.

According to Millen, the car lost 50 percent of its power about halfway through the run, and if everything was working properly, he thinks a time in the mid-8-minute range would be not just possible, but more than likely.

An 8:30 up Pikes Peak is fast. Really fast – in fact, it’s approaching the all-time standing record set in 2013 when Sebastien Loeb took an ICE-powered 2013 Peugeot 208 T16 to the top in 8:13.878. To get anywhere near that magic run is huge, but to do it in a car powered by batteries is, well, insane.

The EV in question is called the Drive eO PP03, and it was designed by a Latvian-based engineering company to be a technological powerhouse that pushes the envelope of what electric race cars are capable of.

Continue reading to see what makes this thing tick.

  • 2015 Drive eO PP03
  • Year:
    2015
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    1367
  • Torque @ RPM:
    1593
  • 0-60 time:
    4 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    161 mph
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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As a competitor in the Electric Modified Class, the eO PP03 benefits from relatively loose regulations when it comes to fashioning a downforce-generating exterior. This purpose-built racer therefore employs a steel tubular space frame with carbon-fiber body panels on top. Total curb weight is a downright feathery 1,150 kg (2,535 pounds).

It looks mean and purposeful, but not outrageously out of line with current race car design practices.

Up front and in the back, you’ll find positively massive wings, while the rest of the body is shaped like a Le Mans prototype, with an open-cockpit design and smoothed fenders to guide the whooshing air up and over the furiously turning tires.

Underneath is a flat underbody. The roll cage sticks up noticeably from the main fuselage, while the driver, sitting slightly left of center, must rely on his helmet to protect him from the elements.

Although the powerplant doesn’t feed itself on atmosphere, there are still plenty of inlets and ducts studding the carbon fiber, presumably to cool the brakes and battery pack. On top is a white/grey and black livery with orange accents. 

It looks mean and purposeful, but not outrageously out of line with current race car design practices.

Interior

As in every real race car, the Drive eO PP03 is all business “inside” (if you can even call it an interior). The driver is strapped into place in a fixed, lightweight bucket seat, with very little room to move, effectively merging his spine with the car. Seating position is low and reclined, with the driver’s knees coming up behind the small-diameter steering wheel. On the dash is a digital readout that collects and displays pertinent data. Steel tubes and composite materials fill in any remaining gaps.

Drivetrain

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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This is where the PP03 really sets itself apart. To power the racer, Drive eO installed six YASA-400 motors with in-house-developed controllers. These are sparked by a 50-kWh lithium-ion battery pack (equipped with a battery management system) to generate 1,368 horsepower (effectively a little over one megawatt) and 1,593 pound-feet of torque.

Because the drivetrain is basically silent, a siren was installed to warn spectators to get the hell out of the way.

It should be noted that at just 1,150 kg, this car has a better power-to-weight ratio than the venerated 2015 Koenigsegg One:1, besting the mighty Swedish meatball with a figure of roughly 1.2 horsepower/kg.

All that muscle is routed to the ground via a single reduction gear and limited-slip differentials, essentially making for AWD and no time spent shifting. Top speed is rated at a little over 160 mph, which might seem slow after a mention of the hyperspace One:1. However, it should be remembered that this car was developed specifically for Pikes Peak, which means 160 is more than adequate. Besides, it’s the outrageous ferocity with which this car reaches that top end that really matters.

Controlling it all is electrically assisted power steering, while race-style four-way adjustable shock absorbers are in the corners. Ventilated disc brakes, with 378 mm (14.88-inch) rotors up front and 330 mm (12.99-inch) rotors in the rear throw the anchor. Hiding the stoppers are lightweight, multi-spoke wheels measured at a rolling pin-esque 13-inches by 18-inches and wrapped in massive 320/710R18 racing-slick rubber.

Finally, because the drivetrain is basically silent, a siren was installed to warn spectators to get the hell out of the way.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type Six YASA-400 electric motors with eO controllers
Peak power 1,020 kW (1,367 HP)
Peak torque 1,593 LB-FT
Battery 50 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with BMS
Transmission Single reduction gear / limited slip axle differentials
Top speed 260 km/h (161 mph)

Competition

2015 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One

2015 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept One Exterior
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Taking the runner-up spot just behind Millen at this year’s PPIHC was Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima, who spent his 65th birthday behind the wheel of this equally over-the-top EV. Like the PP03, the E-Runner was designed specifically to tackle the Peak, and was developed as a joint effort between Tajima’s speed shop, Monster Sport, and the Croatian electric-car manufacturer Rimac Automobili.

Powering the car are four independent electric motors, one per wheel, which means the E-Runner is also AWD. Juice comes via a 57 kWh battery. Total output is rated at an astounding 1,474 horsepower and 1,106 pound-feet of torque.

Read our full review here.

Entropy Racing EVSR

2015 Drive eO PP03
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Despite being relegated to a shortened run at this year’s PPIHC due to severe weather, effectively punting it from contention, the Entropy Racing team still managed to put on a good show with a trio of EVSR entries. Like the PP03, these all-electric racers have open-cockpit designs and aerodynamically sculpted bodies. Curb weight is kept to only 2,000 pounds, which is less than the PP03, but each also packs fewer ponies, with a mere 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque on tap. Top speed is rated at about 140 mph. Despite entering with a clear disadvantage, I hope Entropy Racing comes back next year to see what they can do on the full Pikes Peak course.

Conclusion

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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The eO PP03 was originally designed with the intention of completing the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak run below the 9-minute mark, which, according to Rhys, would have happened if it weren’t for the unexpected power loss. What’s more, the team set out to create the first EV to take the overall win, which it did, handily.

When you get down to it, this car is a prophecy of things to come in the world of racing.

So when you get down to it, this car is a prophecy of things to come in the world of racing. It’s got all the right trimmings of a traditional racer – big aero, huge stick in the corners, and purpose-driven design. The only thing different is a dearth of exploding dinosaur juice.

It almost seems like a fluke, but the journey to this point was not an easy one, with years of development and testing leading up to the record-setting run. Drive eO, the engineering company that created the PP03, specializes in electric and hybrid-powered prototype vehicles, and has a proven track record of racing EVs. The company was the first to enter and complete the notoriously difficult Dakar Rally with a hybrid-electric vehicle. The company also previously entered two other all-electric racers at the Peak, with the PP03 essentially being the latest iteration of Drive eO’s breakthrough electric technology.

But now the car is here and the technology is advancing at an ever-quickening pace. Most feel as though an ICE-powered car is sure to retake the crown next year, but I have my doubts. After all, at 9:07.222, this year’s run is right in line with last year’s top-spot time of 9:05.801, as performed by Romain Dumas’ Norma M20 RD Limited. Now imagine if the eO PP03 had full power for 100 percent of the run.

And why not? EVs don’t suffer the same problems as ICE-powered cars when it comes to dealing with the high altitude, and the instant power and AWD is great for a slingshot out of those tight hairpin switchbacks.

As far as I see it, cars like the Drive eO PP03 prove that the writing is on the wall – ICE cars will, eventually, go the way of the dinosaurs. It’s just a matter of time.

  • Leave it
    • Relegated to one purpose – Pikes Peak
    • Sounds like a blender

Press Release

Drive eO has officially presented its 1020 kW (1367 hp) electric race car to general public and the media in Riga on Thursday. The eO PP03 will be raced in the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, taking place on June 28 in Colorado Springs, USA. Project director Kristaps Dambis unveiled the powerful electric vehicle that will be piloted by former winner and record holder Rhys Millen. The target is to complete the twenty kilometre (12.42 mile) track in a time below nine minutes, which would result in a new record in the EV division and a possible first overall win for an electric car.

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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The Latvian based engineering company specialised in the design and manufacture of electric and hybrid electric prototype vehicles, has built an extensive track record in electric racing. They were the first to enter and complete the demanding Dakar Rally with a hybrid electric vehicle and created two all-electric race cars to compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The eO PP03 is a result of ongoing development in an attempt to push the boundaries of technology.

The 1020 kW strong all-wheel drive vehicle is propelled by six YASA-400 motors with in-house developed eO controllers. The 50 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, 2160 Nm (1593 lb-ft) of peak torque, a top speed of 260 km/h and a kerb weight of just 1150 kg are some other stunning specifications. The race car went through an extensive test programme recently to tweak the electric drive train to perfection.

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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The eO PP03 will be in the hands of Rhys Millen. Born in New Zealand, moved to the United States of America as a teenager, the 42-year-old is an experienced race car driver in rally, drift series and hill climbs. After setting multiple records, class wins and even the overall victory in 2012, Millen is more than ready to tackle the 156 turns to the 4,301 metre (14,110) the summit of the Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado Springs. “Drive eO brings the future into the present with the most capable vehicle ever to grace Pikes Peak that has the opportunity to win overall,” Millen said.

Dambis underlines the positive spirit and ambitions of the project, he said: “We are very proud to unveil the vehicle after an exciting process of designing, assembling and testing. We targeted the weight of the car to be 1200 kg but it has actually come to just 1150 kg, which is a testament to our philosophy and attention to detail during the vehicle’s development. We found a good base set-up in recent tests and we are very excited about the serious competition this year. It will be an epic ‘EV showdown’ with great drivers and we look forward to the challenge!”

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