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Where is NZ's e-sport?

17 December 2018

I was flying model aircraft at the local airfield again on Sunday and, as usual, the local gokart racers were out in force on the track next door.

You get used to the noise pretty quickly, even though I've measured sound levels of up to 98dB from that track in the position where we stand while flying. It's a little harder to get used to the blue haze of oil smoke that tends to hang around for ages when there's no wind.

Unlike "the old days" when kart racers used castor oil as their lubricant of choice and we were all happy to sniff the nicely aromatic vapours that this 100% natural oil produces -- today's racers tend to use synthetics or highly refined mineral oils as the stuff that stops their motors from wearing out. The difference, in terms of irritation and impact on the olfactory system is dramatic.

So we spent much of the day having our ears bashed by the tannoy system and our sense of smell battered by all manner of (probably) toxic fumes.

But hey, I'm not going to complain... gokart racing is fun and exciting. I'd much rather kids got off their fat bums and raced around a circuit than sat at home on a brilliantly fine day and played some FPS in their bedroom with the curtains drawn all day.

However, yesterday's rather noxious conditions got me to wondering...

Where the hell are all the electric-powered gokarts?

Given the staggering performance advantage that electric power offers such pursuits, I'm surprised we don't see active uptake of an electric class for these little vehicles.

It can't be cost... because a brick of 18650 liIon cells, an 3-phase speed controller and a suitable electric motor would likely cost little more than a competition-class Rotax or other purpose-built internal combustion engine. The total cost of ownership would be even less once you factor in a year's worth of fuel, oil, repairs, maintenance and overhauls that the IC engine requires.

So why don't we have an active e-class gokart racing community?

Well perhaps we do... but they just don't come to Tokoroa.

Imagine having twice the acceleration with the only noise coming from tyres that are pushed to the limits of traction and freedom from the sometimes nauseating exhaust of an IC engine class.

I guess there could be something of a problem with 30 or 40 karts all lined up to use a recharging station between heats though -- is that the main hurdle?

It's unlikely that many/any gokart tracks in New Zealand have a 3-phase connection that would provide sufficient capacity to run a dozen or more high-power recharging stations -- but perhaps this will come in time, especially once those driving these karts find out just how much faster and more exciting they could be.

In the meantime, I'm still surprised that here isn't at least some significant activity in an e-class that would provide for just one race per meeting (between IC races) so that everyone could arrive with pre-charged batteries and "have a go".

Hell, 90% of all the RC model flying that takes place at the airfield next door is now electric... you'd think these guys on the gokarts could catch up eh?

What do readers think about the future of e-motorsports?

In a decade or so's time, will most motorsports have significant e-classes, or will petrolheads rule supreme for the foreseeable future?

What is more important... ultimate speed and acceleration or the roar of internal combustion engines at high RPM?

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