NASCAR, one of America’s most hallowed institutions of gas-guzzling, engine-rumbling fury, should stop praying at the altar of fossil fuels in favor of more environmentally-friendly electric alternatives, at least as far as America’s most popular scientific voice Bill Nye is concerned.
In a recent op-ed, Nye argues that NASCAR is a celebration of outmoded technology and should try to re-brand itself like NASA, offering prizes to racing teams that take steps to improve driving technology and efficiency. The benefits of a switch from gas to electric vehicles would arguably make the actual races more exciting, as strategies would change dramatically: pit stops would be less detrimental to a racer’s position, and overall, the driving would be better, faster, and tighter.
While NASCAR purists might scoff at Nye’s recommendation, the Science Guy actually presents a very compelling argument. For one, there are electric supercars out there that put NASCAR stock cars to shame. For instance, the Rimac Concept One (used as a race director’s car at Formula E events) has 1088 horsepower, compared to around 840 horsepower on a standard NASCAR engine. Even consumer model electrics like the Tesla can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds. Nye also points out that most of these consumer models are weighted down with components NASCAR techs would take out anyway, so the performance would be even better on the track.
Nye makes a solid argument, but unfortunately, NASCAR isn’t exactly known to be a progressive business, clinging to old technology in a bid to curb cheating as they do (they didn’t get rid of carburetors until 2012, over two decades after consumer cars got rid largely abandoned them). Still, if more critics like Nye can keep the pressure on NASCAR and make the public more aware of the benefits of electric cars, perhaps someday we’ll see Tesla cars in the Daytona 500.