REFUEL 2010 at Laguna Seca Pt. 1- Me
Now in its second year, the REFUEL all-electric expo and race at Laguna Seca Raceway was held last Sunday, the 11th of July. Held by Speed Ventures, it’s an opportunity for owners of electric cars or motorcycles to drive on track in a track-day setting, as well as compete in a time trial style race against the other electrics. I missed the event last year but made a point to attend this time, and to my great satisfaction was able to bring the electric MX5.
It was a bit of a stretch to get the car down to Monterey, arranging trailer and towing facilities around my friends’ schedules, but in the end things worked out well- the car made it down and back safely with no incident. There was even enough space to bring the electric bike and electric recliner- both of which fulfilled their purposes very well and were great fun to have along.
We arrived at about 8:30 AM after about three hours on the road and found the racetrack hidden in thick fog. By the time the first session came around the fog had burned off though, leaving beautiful sunny, breezy weather for the rest of the day. I made it out for two sessions on the track, for exactly two laps each before the batteries were too soft to continue. Coming over the big hill to the corkscrew corner on the second lap was accomplished at near a crawl.
I had a good chance to get more of a feel for how the new Rudman regs perform, mainly how much additional convection cooling they need in operation- I had to keep chasing the overheating reg around the pack with an electric fan. It’s definitely good to be putting some cycles on this pack, it’s clearly starting to work itself out and become more balanced. The battery I thought was weak and having self discharge problems seems to be behaving better. I am wondering if perhaps my old balancer system was causing a higher quiescent discharge on it than on the others.
My car was the only one driving on track with lead batteries, and one of only two brushed DC powered cars- it’s not a surprise that it was the slowest car out there. Despite that it was incredibly fun and gratifying to take around the track- and what a beautiful track. Sure I could have done better racing in practically anything gas-powered, but that’s not the point. Finally after three years working on the car I can drive it and charge it at a racetrack 120 miles from home- that’s really something. The car is unique- smooth, quiet and really pleasant to drive, even reasonably fast when fresh off the charger. Two laps, about four and a half miles of hard driving is pretty much the limit before the voltage sag completely destroys the driveability of the car. According to the Cycle Analyst that’s about 12-16 AH in- I’m not sure if this is a reasonable useful capacity out of the 55AH Optimas or if they have suffered in the last year they’ve been sitting full but rarely cycled.
The bike performed excellently as usual as a speedy runaround, and was passed around a bit for test rides. The electric recliner was the real star of the show. Sitting out of view in the truck while remote-crusing it around the paddock was stupid fun. We maneuvered it over near the Palatov Motorsports trailer and distracted them from their cars for a bit with some antics that Dennis ended up mentioning on his site (See dp1e section, 7/9/10 post). Then at the end of the day I traded a ride in the chair for a ride in a Tesla Roadster- something I had never managed to get before. Suffice it to say the Tesla knocked my socks off.
All in all, a fantastically successful day.
See part Two for my thoughts about the other cars that showed up to the event.