In the last few years I've become a huge fan of endurance racing, and with the recent Le Mans race, I can't help but wonder how close to competitive viability a Model S GTE / GT3 variant could be. Racing success against ICEs would also offer huge legitimacy to the performance advantages of electrics and dispel the myth that electrics are always inferior to ICEs on a level playing ground. As they say, win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
1. Low center of gravity. With the battery in the floor pan, lowering the car to just an inch off the track, and with the motor and other electronic mounted between the tires, it'd have probably the lowest center of gravity on the track.
2. Traction control. As many Roadster owners can testify, traction control on an electric vehicle is much faster to react and precise than on ICEs, meaning on ICE race cars is very minimal. This means more power in the wet and out of the corners.
3. Torque. Gobs of it, at any speed, without shifting.
4. Reliability. Less moving parts, no gearboxes, ect, means much better reliability. This is especially important in the grueling 12-24 hour endurance races where mechanical problems are the norm.
5. Regen. There's currently no hybrid GT race cars racing in any major series to my knowledge. This could give an electric a significant range advantage on tighter tracks.
6. Range. Surprisingly enough a Model S GT variant could be competitive in terms of range, at least between pit stops. In races like Le Mans GT cars only get about 80-100 miles per fuel stop at race speeds. Elon mentioned in a (quarterly?) meeting earlier this year that they could fit a 500 mile battery if they wanted to, but it would impair cargo space. While the car certainly wouldn't get 500 miles at race speeds, a significantly lightened car with a 100 - 140 kwh battery and regen would likely get more than 100 miles between pits.
1. Weight. Even with a carbon fiber body, a battery powered car is going to be significantly heavier than an ICE car. They say that adding lightness is the only way to improve everything about a car; extra weight hurts the handling, cornering, acceleration, energy efficiency, and tire wear.
2. Experience. Having engineers, technicians, ect, right down to the guy swapping out the tires, that are experienced in racing is invaluable. Tesla would be starting from scratch, and even if they hired people with experience they'd be working with something totally different than anyone had ever seen before.
3. Regulations. Some 2014 regulations have been released for prototypes that seem to open the door for electric vehicles, but as far as I know none exist yet for GT cars.
1. Battery swapping. Whether or not battery swapping would be allowed and practical in a pit lane would make or break trying to compete on a level playing field with ICEs. Apparently the Model S battery can be swapped in under a minute, which could almost certainly be made quicker for race purposes, but would need to be done without open access to the bottom of the car and less than a foot of clearance with the car jacked up, and then also maneuver the old battery out and the new battery in in the limited space of a pit box.
2. Future regulations. Every major racing series has limits on engine displacement to limit power, but also to drive technology by the manufactures trying to get more power out of the same displacement. Since an electric motors' power doesn't scale from a single easily capped factor, there doesn't really seem like there's a good way of limiting the power delivery out of an electric motor except to just put a flat cap on power, voltage, amperage, ect.
All in all it seems like its very feasible even today, and the rate of improvement of electrics is significantly higher than the rate of improvement for ICEs, so any gap will close quickly in the next few years. Is there any chance of seeing a Tesla factory racing team, or perhaps some factory supported privateers in the future?