Kevin Harvick slams 1300 HP NASCAR EV: ‘There is no future for electric racing’

Elizabeth Blackstock
NASCAR's electric prototype

NASCAR's electric prototype

NASCAR has unveiled a 1,300-horsepower electric vehicle prototype designed to represent the future of stock car racing in America — but not everyone is impressed by the new display of technology.

Kevin Harvick, former NASCAR Cup Series driver turned pundit, took to his Happy Hour podcast to slam the EV, going so far as to say there will be no future for electric racing — not when EVs get rid of the traditional sounds and smells of combustion-based motorsport.

NASCAR’s electrifying Chicago debut

Racing series around the world have all been tasked with developing answers to the automotive industry’s current “electrify everything” trend. IndyCar has finally joined the world of hybrids, while Extreme E is converting to a hydrogen-powered battery electric vehicle series called Extreme H. Even Formula 1 has had to field off questions about the series becoming fully electric.

After months of rumors, NASCAR finally debuted an electric prototype at the Chicago street circuit. The debut was done in partnership with ABB, Formula E’s title sponsor and a “global leader in electrification and automation,” as NASCAR’s press release puts it.

The NASCAR EV was available for several show runs during the Chicago street race weekend — and one run even included a standing start, something not done in NASCAR, to highlight the vehicle’s instant torque.

The prototype at the track boasts 1,300 horsepower, and its body style resembles that of a crossover. The body is made of a flax-based fiber composite, and it also features a rear wing — the latter of which last appeared on the Cup Series track in 2010.

One motor will drive the front wheels, while a pair of motors control the rear wheels; combined, all three motors are said to generate up to 1,341 horsepower.

The introduction of the prototype raised a lot of criticism.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ roots are in big, V8 combustion engines, and the series itself has been largely resistant to change in the face of evolving automotive trends — at least as far as alternative power sources have been concerned.

Fans have expressed worries that electrification will do harm to many of the aspects they deem critical to stock car racing: Loud exhausts and the acrid scent of gasoline. A fully electric car, then, would be antithetical to the very concept of NASCAR as those folks see it.

For what it’s worth, NASCAR has been clear that its EV prototype is just that: A prototype. While Cup Series racing may evolve in the future to become more environmentally friendly, a fully-electric discipline is likely years away, if it comes at all. The prototype is instead designed to show off how the latest tech in the automotive world could come into play in NASCAR.

More on motorsport’s alternative propulsion systems:

👉 Formula 1 v IndyCar: How open-wheel racing’s hybrid powertrains compare

👉 Exclusive: How a hydrogen-powered Championship could impact F1’s future

Kevin Harvick’s take on NASCAR’s EV

Kevin Harvick, a recently retired former Cup Series champion with a deeply impressive pedigree, has emerged as one of the most vocal detractors of the NASCAR EV prototype. He took to his podcast, Kevin Harvick’s Happy Hour, to share his thoughts — and he didn’t mince words.

“I really think that the EV push came from the manufacturers and NASCAR started this project, and the EVs aren’t doing as well as what they were when this project started,” Harvick said.

“I think it’s great to see that you have something, but I think NASCAR was so far down the line with the EV project being pushed by the manufacturers that they finished it.

“But I think that the manufacturers at one point were like ‘hey each of us will build three of them, we’ll put on exhibition races.’ And I think when the EV thing went away, the manufacturers were like ‘hey we’re not going to do that anymore. Thanks but no thanks.’

“Now NASCAR is stuck with this electric vehicle that they can do some demonstrations with but that’s really the only thing that excites me about it.

“There’s really nothing about a race car that doesn’t make noise that has any excitement for me.”

Harvick here is referring to the evolving mindsets toward electric vehicles in the automotive industry. At one point, EVs were considered to be the only way forward, and many automakers committed to all-electric policies by specific dates.

But the EV revolution hasn’t quite hit the way many expected. Electric vehicles are more expensive right out of the gate than a combustion vehicle, and projected ranges haven’t increased as intended. Paired with a poorly funded charging infrastructure, many folks once interested in buying an EV have decided against it.

Harvick shares his own experience with buying an EV to further his point, saying, “I bought an EV. I bought one of those Ford [F-150] Lightnings and I’m like ‘I just want to see what it’s all about.’

“It’s fun to drive, but it won’t go far. I’m not taking it on a trip.”

That’s one of the primary sentiments turning off many potential EV buyers: Ranges are limited, and charging takes a long time — and that’s if you can find a functional charger in the first place.

Harvick responded to one of his co-hosts statements that NASCAR has the ability to improve its technology by saying, “Oh, we can do anything.

“But I will tell you this: There is no future for NASCAR electric vehicle racing.

“If it does not make noise and smell like it’s burning gas, there is no freaking way that people are tuning in.

“I appreciate the effort, and I get it. But […] I wouldn’t spend much more money on it.”

Read next: Symonds: Electrification ‘not the only answer’ in F1 future