On Sunday, June 26 the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was home to Refuel 2011 - the third annual track day for electric cars and motorcycles.
Open to anyone with an electric car, the event gave everyone from Tesla Roadster owners through to DIY converters the chance to push themselves and their cars to the limit in a safe, controlled event.
With cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt hitting the roads since Refuel 2010, this year’s event was the first time that production plug-in vehicles from mainstream automakers were represented at the event.
While it was a Tesla Roadster driven by Tesla employee and racing instructor Joe Nuxoll which put in the fastest lap time in the production electric class, a 2011 Nissan Leaf driven by owner Nader Assemi wasn’t far behind.
Setting a lap time of 2:10.223, just over 2 seconds slower than the slowest Tesla Roadster at the event, Assemi had driven his Leaf down from Fresno the previous day.
In order to preserve as much of the charge in his car’s battery for the return trip that evening, Assemi’s first few laps of the course were driven with the Leaf in its ‘eco’ mode, maximizing the regenerative braking on accelerator lift-off.
During the day’s racing, Assemi reported that while other electric cars struggled to keep power electronics cool, his Leaf kept its cool.
“To my surprise almost every other EV out there (production or otherwise) had heat management issues after 2-5 laps. Tesla's were hitting power cut by lap 4-5. Most of the other kit cars could do one or two laps due to heat or range issues.” He wrote over at the MyNissanLeaf forum. “Conversely, the Leaf was pulling strong all day and the battery temp gauge didn't move over 6 bars. Energy efficiency on the track was a stellar 1.2-1.3 m/kWh.”
While there were plenty of other electric cars and motorcycles at the event, including a race-prepared All-Electric Le Mans style single seater and a collection of race-ready motorcycles from Brammo, Zero and Mission Motors, we think Assemi’s times are particularly impressive.
If you’d like to take a Nissan Leaf around the famous Laguna Seca course but don’t want to risk damaging your brand new electric car fear not. Assemi shot a video of his own laps, which you can see below.