Can New Manufacturers Push NASCAR Toward an Electric Future?

NASCAR was always a home-grown, American-made competition featuring American-made cars. A little over a decade ago, Japanese car maker Toyota broke into the NASCAR scene, triggering many of the events’ traditionalist fans who were used to seeing it as an all-American event. Now, Toyota has grown to perform well in the races – some even go as far as to say that Toyota Racing “dominates” the competition – and there are others standing in line to join it. Among them, Japanese car maker Nissan Motors and its Nissan, Infiniti, and Datsun brands, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles which, although it owns several American brands, is a multinational corporation with Italian and American ownership with its headquarters in the Netherlands. The manufacturer which has recently seen a strike after the parent company spent almost $130 million on a soccer player would like to see its Dodge brand race in NASCAR – but, together with its Japanese counterpart, it will have to wait at least until 2020 to do so.

The introduction of new manufacturers and teams into the sport is a timely process, Brian Dewar said in a report a few months ago, and this means that any team or brand willing to race in NASCAR will have to wait for it to happen. Yet it would be something to look forward to, considering that Nissan is a major name in electric vehicle manufacturing, and it may bring hybrids into NASCAR for the first time in its history. While the introduction of electric and hybrid cars would surely be a controversial decision, it would serve the manufacturers well – manufacturers that try to push as many of their hybrids onto the roads as possible.

Come to think of it, motor racing and electric cars are not mutually exclusive – and combining the two is not at all unheard of. Formula One has been using hybrid technology and KERS (kinetic energy recovery systems) for years now. Besides, it has even spun off its own all-electric counterpart called Formula E, currently at its fourth season, with engine providers ranging from Mercedes, Jaguar, and Audi to Nissan (!), Porsche, and many others. The idea of allowing hybrid technology into NASCAR or even starting its own all-electric counterpart, however repulsive it may seem to die-hard fans, would certainly help push forward the cause of electric vehicles and help their development, just like Formula One does. While NASCAR didn’t comment on the possibility of embracing electric vehicles – but it surely is a path to explore, considering how much publicity EVs are getting lately – and how broad an audience NASCAR reaches.

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