Ready for a combination of American pop culture you never thought you'd see together? Bill Nye, the Science Guy just published a blog post where he argues that NASCAR should switch to electric cars. And you know what? He brings up some pretty good points.
If you read Nye's entire post over at Aeon (and you definitely should), you'll get the sense that the guy knows at least a little bit about motorsports. He explains that he has family in North Carolina and Virginia, and that he's even visited Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. But, he says, while he can appreciate the exhilaration of speed and noise, deep down the spectacle saddens him:
"[B]eyond the heart-pounding, Are-these-cars-going-to-jump-the-barrier-and-kill-me? exciting quality of it, it's depressing – leastways depressing for me as an engineer. Because here I am trying to envision the smart, efficient transportation technology of tomorrow, and there is NASCAR doing the opposite – celebrating a very old transportation technology of yesterday."
"Consider the following: a typical NASCAR racecar produces up to 540 ft-lbs (730 Newton-metres) of torque. The Tesla Model-S (sedan), right out of the showroom, produces 713 ft-lbs (970 N-m). A NASCAR vehicle can get up to 850 horsepower (hp) with the car and driver weighing about 3,600 lbs (that's 630 kilowatts and 1,650 kg). The Tesla produces 'only' 532 hp (400 kW), and with a car weighing an extra 1,000 lbs (450 kg). Looking at those last couple of numbers might make you think that the NASCAR vehicle is way more powerful than a high-end electric one. But note well, we are comparing a NASCAR car made to race with a true stock car (one a consumer can buy), albeit an electric one, that has not been refined to compete on racetracks. The gasoline-powered car is a product of a century of development. Just think what an electric carmaker, such as Tesla, could produce given, say, three years."
Side note: Check out how Nye throws shade at how un-stock today's "stock cars" really are (emphasis added above). Nice one, Bill.
Nye then goes on to explain his dream for NASCAR, where a fleet of electric racers use pit stops to swap batteries, rather than refuel, in a setup that sounds pretty similar to Tesla's long-abandoned battery swapping station plan. Nye says the series could change its name to NESCAR—National Electric Stock Car Racing.
Yes, we all appreciate how crazy this sounds. NASCAR is definitely not switching to battery-electric vehicles in any foreseeable future. The nearest thing, the all-electric Formula E racing series, has audiences and budgets that are probably a fraction of a fraction of those in NASCAR.
But even though Nye's proposal for a zero-emissions NASCAR is a complete and total non-starter, The Science Guy makes some very valid criticisms of what stock car racing has become. "It's a celebration of old tech," Nye says of NASCAR. He talks about how he wishes NASCAR was more like NASA, or use Google XPrize-style competitions to encourage creative engineering in new and exciting directions. "There's no reason why NASCAR couldn't be like that: a race with rules designed to reward the coolest, most advanced vehicle technologies."
Meanwhile, the NASCAR we've got just introduced another mind-bogglingly ridiculous set of mandatory caution periods, this time using a countdown clock.
Nye offers an example from racing history that highlights exactly what's wrong with anti-innovation motorsports rules, the kind found in NASCAR and so many other forms of racing:
"When I was a kid, auto-racing was where new technology was developed rather than where old technology was preserved or even celebrated. We admired cars that went faster and could be manoeuvered well. Next time you're in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, check out the STP-Paxton Turbocar. It almost won the 1967 Indianapolis 500 race with a helicopter turbine engine adapted for car racing. The car led for 170 of the 200 laps, almost the entire race. A ball-bearing cracked on the third-to-last lap. Race officials could tell that, if they allowed this type of innovative car to come back year after year, racing teams would have a chance to test it further, and make additional improvements to this sure-win innovation. Soon, all the other racecars would be obsolete. Instead of embracing this innovation, they changed the permitted size of the intake duct so that it was too small to enable a turbine car to keep up."
"I'm not saying we should all be driving turbine engine-powered cars," Nye concludes. "I'm saying racing should be about the future rather than the past." On that, undoubtedly nearly every racing fan can agree.
Just don't hold your breath waiting for an electric NASCAR series, Bill.
Original Source: http://www.roadandtrack.com/motorsports/news/a28004/bill-nye-the-science-guy-thinks-nascar-should-switch-to-electric-cars/?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:%20Trending%20Content&utm_content=56a8568e04d301487db5bb3c&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter