Motorsport is being redefined: the future of racing is happening now. With the growing popularity of Formula E, the FIA eTouring Car World Cup and the arrival of off-track ExtremeE, electric racing has hit the mainstream and is capturing the world’s attention. As true pioneers responsible for the first ever electric touring racing car, it’s no surprise Cupra Racing are reigning champions in many of these events. Not only is the Cupra E-Racer setting the standard for high performance, but the company is also reshaping the perception of electric racing. And if you think it can’t compete with combustion, think again. As you’ll hear in this episode, the passion, the speed, and the drive to achieve more – it’s all there.
This is where our Cupra dreams become reality. We transform the Cupra road cars coming directly from the factory, and we fit them with different rims, different pedals, spoilers. Cupra is a brand born in the 21st century. We call ourselves “unconventional challengers” because we want to do things differently. In 2018, we had a commitment and a vision to electrify our motorsport portfolio. We started out way earlier than society or the motorsport world did. We felt a bit special at the very beginning, where we had our first-ever touring electric car, but there was nowhere to race it. There was only combustion touring car races around the world. It was like we were pioneering the thing too early.
When we see the final racing car ready to be delivered to our customer, we see is a car that looks like a Cupra Lyon, but with a really big wing, stretched fenders, we have a raw gauge inside, we have a racing bucket seat, we don’t have any seats for passengers, any belts, any fancy things. We’re looking for pure performance and not comfort at all. The FIA World Touring Car Cup finished a month and a half ago, and we are currently going through an assessment of how the car ended up at the end of the season. It is a complex car that we started to design three years ago. The E-Racer is based on a road car body shell from the Cupra Leon, but we fit an electric racing battery and an electric motor that features almost 700 horsepower, all in the rear axle – it is a rear wheel–driven car with no gears, a single gear. We have an acceleration from zero to 100 kph in only 3.2 seconds, and the motors produce almost 1,000 newton metre torque.
Electric technology is more efficient than combustion technology, and the electric motor has an efficiency of easily above 90% whereas a combustion engine is only around 40%. But we are still learning this technology. We do believe racing will be electric, and is electric already, but will be more electric in the future. And the proof is these cars, which perform amazingly well. It’s a lot of fun for the drivers when you see all of them switching from the combustion to the electric. We always say, “Let’s see how these guys will react.” And all of them say the same: “Wow.” For the drivers, once you are in the car you hear the wheels, the gear, the motor, the tyres on gravel. You don’t hear anything else. It’s completely different. But the performance is the same, or even more than a combustion engine. We don’t feel the lack of the combustion noise. People tend to say electric cars are silent, and then they are not emotional – but that’s not the case at all.
When I sit in the car, I’m sitting in a higher position because I have the whole battery, the 65-kilowatt battery, under my seat and behind my back. We have to place these big batteries all around. I do have my cockpit with very few buttons. There are a lot on the steering wheel and a lot of information on this little dashboard where I can see the state of the SOC, state of the battery, temperatures, electric isolation, everything. But they are important, and they all mean a lot. And we need to monitor these at all times. The headlights and the rear lights are blinking, which means that the high voltage is on. And this green light inside means that the car is safe to be driven, so the isolation is fine. When I push the ignition button, it sounds more like a spaceship or a rocket. Some say it sounds like a mosquito because it’s coming from far away and increasing like a mosquito in your ear.
The perception of electric motorsport has changed a lot in the past five years, I would say, from very few people defending it and a lot of haters to not maybe half and half yet, but people are starting to see that performance and electrification are a perfect match. These two worlds are converging. Cupra’s vision and the motorsport world and ecosystem is combined to one single path that will be electric. I am proud of what we have achieved so far. We are the only brand to have won electric high-level competitions on track, winning the FIA eTouring Car World Cup twice, and winning off-track as well. We are starting to be successful there. And on the other hand, we keep on supporting our customers around the world, winning national and regional championships. The future of motorsport will be electric for sure.
To be competitive on the track requires countless hours of effort and dedication – but a lot of the work happens in the early stages of the design of the individual vehicle components. That’s why Cupra uses PTC’s 3D computer-aided design software, Creo.
Creo is PTC’s flagship 3D design tool. It’s really present in this part of the industry. We have a strong presence in motorsport and in automotive in general, and Cupra has been a customer of ours for a long, long time. It’s only natural, for a company that has to wring every last ounce of performance out of their vehicles, that they would use high-fidelity 3D CAD software that allows them to digitally represent every single part of their design – right down to the last thousandth of an inch. They’re right there in 3D so they can make sure there are no mistakes, the full design is there, they can do all the validation work and all the development, and they have a number of design engineers collaborating across the entire vehicle design, whether it’s the design engineers working on the seat for the driver, or the suspension, or the various versions of Powertrain that this team might be working on.
Time to market for any manufacturer is critical but for the race team, you’ve got a deadline, which is the race that’s happening the next weekend or the weekend after. And so that deadline simply doesn’t move. And a lot of what we do here is about helping them streamline their processes. When you’re doing everything digitally, you can collaborate quickly, make mistakes, quickly correct those mistakes, and move on – because mistakes made in the digital world don’t cost you much, you just keep working and collaborating with the team. So, whether it’s electric, or traditional ICE Powertrain, you have different folks collaborating together on a single 3D design that they can then be sure is handed off to manufacturing efficiently. That’s what 3D design does. So that’s why they’ve been a customer of ours for many years. It’s exciting to see what they’ve been up to.
For a company like Cupra, or for a division of a larger company like Cupra’s racing team, especially given the domain they work in where it’s all about performance – and it’s all about getting the power to the ground and doing it with the lightest possible vehicle they can that’s still safe, that still meets all the rigidity requirements and safety requirements –there is a significant application of simulation technology that’s used to validate that the design will meet the stress requirements, the pounding that these vehicles have to take. You could spend weeks testing one out on a track – or you could spend a few days doing a series of simulations in the digital world to confirm that the design will meet its requirements – or, even more importantly, to realise the design is not going to meet the requirements and make some changes while the product is still in its digital form so I can ensure that it will.
In the electric vehicle world, where we’ve got batteries with high-energy densities, and keeping them cool is essential, it’s also about simulating airflow and the actual way in which you can manage those thermal properties as well as the structural ones. It’s interesting in that world where airflow around the outside of the car is not just about having enough downforce for the vehicle any more. It’s also about, “Are we getting enough air to the battery pack?” For systems like that there’s actually a lot more thermal management, and that type of simulation is also possible right there inside Creo as part of the design process. Because there’s a new genre of simulations that design engineers have to do – thermal analysis, fluid flow analysis – they are all possible as part of the Creo suite of products. And so it’s great to see Cupra taking advantage of them.
Not only are they able to minimise the amount of rework they have to do when they finally do get out and test the prototype, by doing simulation across all of the critical components in the design, but they save so much time because every time you have a broken part as part of a test, maybe for them it’s days because they can rapid prototype directly out of Creo. And it might be weeks if it’s a difficult to find material that they have to produce, or maybe they’re manufacturing some parts directly from inside Creo, even that can take one overnight or one day. These kinds of things can be huge double digit percent efficiency improvements for these teams.
Manufacturing complex parts can take a long time. We really see, with teams like Cupra, a lot of application of simulation technology from PTC. And the way we’ve integrated it with Creo, it’s right there at the fingertips of the design engineer. They don’t have to go through some special process to utilise that technology. They just build the loads and boundary conditions right there inside the design and define the test exactly the way they would in the real world. But they’re doing it digitally, and they’re doing it right there on their production design, so it’s really a time saver for them. You’re talking 10%, 20%, 30% time savings in getting the design of the vehicle done, by virtue of the fact that we’ve integrated the simulation technology so deeply into the design process for customers like Cupra to use.
Thanks to Brian for his insight and to Xavi for showing us around Cupra Racing’s factory.
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This is an 18Sixty production for PTC. Executive producer is Jacqui Cook. Sound design and editing by Ollie Guillou. Location recording by Alan Ruiz Terol. And music by Rowan Bishop.