Could electric cars be on their way to the WRC?
Has the World Rally Championship given the first indication that electric cars are on their way to the WRC?
That’s the question you ask yourself after the championship last night announced a multi-year agreement with global chemical giant Asahi Kasei – a company who last year developed a electric concept car.
The new deal is with Japanese-based Asahi Kasei, whose core business sectors include chemicals, textiles, electronics, home construction, health care and pharmaceuticals.
In 2017 the company completed a jointly developed AKXY electric concept car (pictured above), based on the design of a sport utility vehicle (SUV). It features the company’s own automotive materials, devices and systems.
They include engineering plastics to replace metals and enable weight reduction, microfibre suede for seats to enhance comfort and an in-car communication system using speech-processing technology.
“I welcome Asahi Kasei to the WRC family to join the championship’s growing portfolio of high-level partners – a further indication of the WRC’s increasing relevance also across Asia,” WRC Promoter managing director, Oliver Ciesla, said.
“Asahi Kasei Group is highly focused on innovation and working for a better future, with technologies contributing to a clean environment, and the WRC provides a perfect platform to grow both the automotive side of its business and its global awareness and popularity.”
Just last week, Volkswagen Motorsport team principal, Sven Smeets, urged World Rally Championship officials to take swift action to find an alternative energy solution for the series.
Smeets oversaw VW’s move into electric-vehicle competition, including Romain Dumas’s record-breaking run up Pikes Peak this year.
“The WRC needs something to connect to the next generation,” Smeets told Autosport magazine.
“But if you ask me what does the future look like, it’s not a straightforward answer.
“It would be very difficult to say you have to make an electric car for the WRC now, because today’s not the right time. But something has to be done.”
Are electric cars the future of the World Rally Championship, and how do companies make them not only sound good, but make sound at all?
We’re in for an interesting few years ahead.