Almost ninety years ago one of the world’s most evil men instructed one Ferdinand Porsche to develop a car suitable for the masses – and Volkswagen was born.
Little did they know that the legacy they would create would become a global automobile leviathan, from the iconic hippy-mobile in the form of the VW Kombi, to becoming the fastest vehicle of any type to reach the top of the infamous Pikes Peak Hillclimb on June 24.
Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America.
It rises to 4,302.31 m and for those who want to race it, you’ll need to navigate 31km of switchbacks, precipitous drop-offs and more than 150 bends. It’s steep, deadly and not for the faint of heart, with thinning oxygen levels as the elevation rises.
Volkswagon’s win beats the all time record for the race. The new record of 7:57.148 beats the prior EV record of 8:57.118 set by Rhys Millen in an e0 PP100 in 2016, as well as the overall record of 8:13.878 set in 2013 by Sébastien Loeb in a heavily modified Peugeot 208.
If you want to prove that an electric vehicle is fast and grunty, there’s nothing like winning an uphill road race. Against petrol cars.
To be clear, this car is no Kombi in looks or performance. There is little doubt that this car and the well executed record are a perfect segway to putting “diesel-gate” behind them and getting those aging hippies back into showrooms to buy their upcoming all electric range.
What this hyper race car does allegedly have in common with the upcoming range is the use of its “MEB platform” (German: Modularer Elektrobaukasten; literally: Modular Electric Kit) A modular car platform for electric cars developed by the Volkswagen Group and its subsidiaries, it is – or will be – used in models of Audi, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen.
The architecture is aimed to “consolidate electronic controls and reduce the number of microprocessors, advance the application of new driver-assistance technology and somewhat alter the way cars are built”.
The diesel emissions cheating scandal that hit Volkswagen in 2015 prompted some interesting responses, including this from Elon Musk –
“What Volkswagen is really showing is that we’ve reached the limit of what’s possible with diesel and gasoline. The time has come to move to a new generation of technology.”
It also prompted Musk and 38 other senior US investors and leaders to send an open letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) suggesting in short, that rather than asking VW to recall and clean up hundreds of thousands of existing diesel vehicles, it should be forced to re-invent its fleet of manufacturing facilities exclusively into the production of zero emissions vehicles.
How much influence this really had is unclear but undoubtedly it’s a pretty cool way to garner forgiveness and reinvigorate their brand.
This motorsport victory may accelerate their commitment to electric vehicles and will no doubt provide fodder for their marketing team for years to come.
Bring it on Volkswagen – an affordable electric car is exactly what “The People” want 90 years later.