Volkswagen has set yet another record with its ID.R electric race car, and it’s the most breathtaking one yet.
Race driver Romain Dumas took the ID.R up Tianmen Mountain Big Gate Road on September 2. It’s a 10.9km-long, concrete-surfaced road with 99 curves that ascends Tianmenshan – Chinese for Heaven’s Gate Mountain – in the Hunan Province of China.
The total time was 7:38.585 minutes, making for the fastest ascent of Tianmenshan.
To enthusiasts, this road looks like heaven but its tortuous path also carries very real risks. Completed in 2006 after eight years of construction, its 99 curves are almost all tight hairpins. Only concrete blocks by the roadside will stop you from plunging off this 1519-metre-tall mountain.
Dumas had to negotiate some of these curves at speeds of just 25km/h but took the ID.R to as fast as 230km/h on one relatively straight stretch.
He said of the experience: “The huge torque was a big advantage on the short straights, while the aerodynamics provided additional traction in the fast sections.”
The ID.R is powered by two electric motors, located at each axle, that produce a combined output of 500kW. That’s enough battery-powered grunt to allow the featherweight (1100kg) prototype to hit 100km/h in just 2.25 seconds. Its electric motors require very little cooling compared to a conventional, ICE-powered racing car and it therefore doesn’t need as many air intakes, aiding aerodynamics.
Along with Big Gate Road, these are three iconic venues that, most importantly, are in three countries critical to Volkswagen’s electric vehicle strategy.
Volkswagen is a huge player in the Chinese market, having been one of the first foreign automakers to invest in China when it formed a joint venture in 1984 to create SAIC Volkswagen. Another joint venture, FAW Volkswagen, followed in 1990.
The Volkswagen brand alone enjoyed a market share in China of 13.4 per cent in 2018, more than twice that of the next best-selling brand, Honda. The same year, every second Volkswagen vehicle was sold in the Chinese market.
Electric car manufacturing is being heavily subsidised there and their popularity is growing, Chinese sales alone accounting for 55 per cent of all global electric vehicle sales last year.
Volkswagen plans on having 10 electrified ID. models in China based on the MEB architecture by 2023.
Orders for the first production ID. vehicle, the ID.3 hatchback, opened in May and the car will reach European showrooms next year. The first ID. in the Chinese market, however, will be a mid-size SUV based on the ID. Crozz concept.
As for Australia, we aren't likely to see the ID.3 on local roads until 2022 at the earliest.