Lordstown Endurance EV pickup is going desert racing
Lordstown Motors is going racing.
The Ohio-based electric pickup truck maker will enter its Endurance pickup in the SCORE San Felipe 250 on April 17, a grueling test of off-road endurance on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Automakers have a long history of proving production vehicles in extreme racing environments, and the nascent electric vehicle industry is proving no different.
Lordstown’s Baja entry follows other manufacturers into competitive racing. The Jaguar iPace has competed in the FIA's international eTrophy series. Plymouth’s Rivian put its R1T truck to the test in the Rebelle Rally last fall. And GMC Hummer is sponsoring a prototype EV racing team in the Xtreme E off-road series.
The Baja desert series, sanctioned by the Southern California Off Road Enthusiasts International (SCORE), has been a benchmark for off-road racing. The Baja 1000 – a 1,000-mile race in its 54th year– is the premier event in a series that includes the San Felipe 250, Baja 500 and Desert Challenge.
“We feel that it is quite a significant milestone for the electric vehicle community that an electric pickup truck can compete in an environment as demanding as Baja California,” said Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns. “Our goal is to be the first EV to ever complete the San Felipe 250, and with the superior traction, weight balance and advanced software control of our hub motor-based Endurance, we are confident that we will do just that.”
The event features a wide range of off-road classes including motorcycles, buggies, trucks, custom-race rods, and production vehicles. The Lordstown Endurance will be of the latter variety, racing in the eClass.
The full-size pickup will feature a beta version of Lordstown’s production skateboard chassis with big, 37-inch off-road tires to take on Baja’s treacherous terrain. The truck will be built in General Motors’ former, 6.2 million-square-foot Lordstown Assembly Plant that once bolted together Cruze compact sedans.
The daunting, 250-mile race starts in San Felipe, Baja California and traverses terrain including sand, rock, high-elevation mountains and low-speed ravines. Temperatures vary widely from desert heat to mountain cold, a challenge to batteries that are sensitive to extreme conditions.
“The Baja races give EV makers the opportunity to say that their vehicles are invulnerable. Range is the issue for electrics. It’s going to be rough in the cold climbs,” said Sue Mead, a six-time Baja 1000 racer and the only American to have won the international, 6,000-mile Dakar Rally. She achieved the Dakar feat in a Ford F-150 Raptor.
Mead said that the instant torque of electric motors is ideal for off-road racing, but battery life will be tested versus gas-powered entrants that have dominated the sport.
Battery robustness has been a challenge for EVs even as manufacturers like Tesla have advertised over 400 miles of range. Under the duress of Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap at 4-mile-long Virginia International Raceway, for example, a Tesla Model S could not finish a lap without going into limp mode. A Porsche Taycan was the first EV to complete the high-speed test last year.
Racing California's all-female Rebelle Rally last fall, off-roader Emme Hall of Roadshow got just over half the advertised 300-mile range in a beta electric Rivian R1T pickup. A semi carrying a 130-kWh mobile charger provided re-charging support, which enabled full battery recharges in about an hour.
Lordstown hopes the Baja experience will toughen the Endurance's image as it targets the commercial truck fleet market. The production, 600-horsepower Endurance boasts a range of 250 miles and tow capacity of 7,500 pounds. Currently in its beta production phase, Endurance is slated for September production.
It joins a growing segment of electric pickup trucks due in the next two years including the Hummer EV, Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian R1T, Bollinger B2 and Ford F-150 Electric.
This year marked the first time an EV competed in the famed King of the Hammers off-road event in California. Independent racer Kyle Seggelin and his team stuffed a Toyota 4Runner with the electric powertrain of a Nissan Leaf EV. The truck was further modified for full battery swaps.
The team swapped out the 62-kWh battery pack twice over the course of the tough, 91-mile course.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.