Last week after the announcement, DSC sat down with Don Panoz to discuss the GT-EV project further, to get an idea on its potential and find out what’s to come over the course of its development before it hits the track next year.
My first question for you Don, is about this project coming to Le Mans. To be clear, have you filed an entry for the race in 2018 as a Garage 56 project?
“We’re the candidate for Garage 56 next year, and as far as I know, the ACO doesn’t have any other candidates. It’s up to them to decide though. But we’ve gone ahead and done all the design work with Peter Stevens, and Brian and our engineers have been working together to get the package.”
So what’s the time-frame to have your entry confirmed?
“I think the main concern is safety with a new car like this, we’ll be presenting safety data and analysis probably in two weeks. Meanwhile our people back in Georgia are designing the tub and working with experts on battery packaging. The motors we’ve selected and the type of drive are not a problem.”
So tell me about the hybrid battery technology which you are exploring as part of this entry, as making decisions and creating solutions there must be the main priority?
“We’re doing some new stuff with hybrid battery packs, which is what we filed patents on about a month ago. Hybrid battery packs are batteries with different personalities. Lithium ion takes about four hours to charge, and it absorbs energy very slowly. Whereas, a chemistry like Lithium titanate you can get to a full charge from complete depletion in six minutes. The difference there is that that output on energy is lower. So, if you design the system so that it can use the best part of each battery’s personality for the car, it’s the best solution.
“For example, because Titanate can recharge so quickly, it means it absorbs energy quickly. If you recover under braking, you use Lithium Ion get about six percent efficiency, if you use titanate you get six times that. So if you think it takes about 15 seconds to get to 150 miles an hour in an EV car, so if you brake at Mulsanne corner in about three seconds lithium can’t be effective with that, but titanate can recuperate energy under braking and use it quickly. Then lithium ion can carry the car through after the corner.”
And that’s merely a consideration for the GT-EV?
I imagine you’ll have to be making that sort of decision quickly then?
“Our battery experts, John Miller and a few other well known experts have said that it’s possible. The other thing with Lithium Titanate is that you can shoot it, drill it, cut it with an axe and it’s very stable. You can even through it in a burning barrel and it takes 35 minutes to ignite. It’s good for surviving impacts.
The thing with Lithium Titanate is that you can shoot it, drill it, cut it with an axe and it’s very stable. You can even through it in a burning barrel and it takes 35 minutes to ignite
“All these sort of considerations are going on right now. On paper, with that sort of technology we reckon that we could do about 48 minutes at Le Mans. That means we’d do two more stops over 24 hours than the regular cars.
“We have battery swaps to do in the race car, but the road car would be rechargeable. Here in the race when they run out of fuel they refuel, when we run out of charge we put in a new battery pack.”
And you aim for the car to be running in eight months time?
“Yeah, we would need for it to run around February. We’re gonna race this car, we’d like it to be Garage 56, I think I’ve been the only one to live up to it so far with the Deltawing. There’s a lot of other races that would love to have this car in it. It won’t run for points, but they would love the attraction of an all-EV sportscar. It could run at the Nürburgring, Spa, Daytona, Sebring, wherever.”
So you feel you have plenty of options if you don’t get a Le Mans entry, and would you therefore consider multiple races next year?
“We’re going to build it, and we’re going to race it. We could do multiple races, we need to look at that. I think after Le Mans next year we’ll probably go to Goodwood, it’s going there as the showcar this year.
“It’s like Field of Dreams, ‘build it, and they will come!'”
You’ve got Tom Milner involved, the head of Panoz Motorsports. How much of an upscale is there going to be in terms of man power for this?
“Tom’s team is running the Avezzano. And later on they’ll run the GT-EV. You build the car, then you give it to a race team that perfects it, that’s the natural course.”
The performance target, about it being competitive with GT times, is ambitious. Where would you like to see it finish? Is there a target?
“175 miles an hour, something like that, will be its top speed. They won’t let us win, but I’d like to see it in the top 10 in GTE in its first effort. We don’t want to get in the way of someone going to win the race, so we’ll be careful, we’ll have a mature driver team who won’t be running off with adrenalin.”
We’ll make the road car after we race here
You plan to put what you learn into the road car. What do you expect you’ll learn, and what will be transferable?
“The only difference between the GT-EV and the road car is the battery pack, one will be swappable and one will be rechargeable. It will be the same battery pack though.
“We’ll make the road car after we race here. The road car will be well on its way by then.”
What do you expect in terms of interest, how many do you expect you’ll sell?
“It’s the first all electric sportscar, and if we can show here at Le Mans that we can do the same range as a tank of fuel. If you’ve got an Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, you’d expect to do 300 miles on a tank of fuel. With our car we’d be looking at the same figures, if we reduce the speed a little bit.
“Also, who else has a fighter jet cockpit with two passengers like that?
“We would expect to sell at least 100.”
Going forward, do you have a vision for where you;d like this to be in say, five years? Or is this a one-off project?
Toyota Hybrid. We’re going to make that obsolete
“This is a project, with a sportscar that Panoz wants to be in, and we have unique sportscars. Green4U has a whole range of vehicles, it’s working on 18 different ones.
“We’ve chosen Le Mans to start with, because it’s the ‘holy grail’ to prove that something works. I think this is a challenge that nobody else has met.
“What was the first advertisement you saw when you walked down the hallway to get to this room? ‘Toyota Hybrid’.
“We’re going to make that obsolete.”