Paddon pioneering first electric rally car

Hayden Paddon.
Hayden Paddon.
Following the pathway laid by New Zealand motorsport innovators Bruce McLaren, Burt Munro and John Britten, Hayden Paddon is pioneering the construction of the world's first electric rally car.

His Paddon Rallysport Group (PRG) team is already full steam ahead on this ground-breaking project at its Cromwell headquarters at Highlands Innovation and Technology Park, where it was unveiled yesterday to media in person and via livestream to the world.

A scale model of the Hyundai Kona EV rally car and the bare shell of what will be built into the first prototype by April next year were on display.

''This first EV rally car from the new PRG division, Alternative Energy Motorsport Development, will be a showstopper in terms of performance and will do things differently to electric-powered competition vehicles seen to date,'' Paddon said.

He acknowledged the recently formed PRG team needs to resolve several engineering challenges for the Hyundai EV rally car project.

''From some of the EV technology that already exists, performance is already there - some cars have up to 1000bhp [745kW]. It's how you harness that performance for rallying - for example, with torque vectoring for gravel/low-grip situations and the range needed to complete a full day's rallying,'' Paddon said.

Unlike the silent road-going EVs, ensuring the EV rally car produces sound is non-negotiable for him.

''I'm committed to making sure our car creates the kind of noise a rally fan enjoys. From an entirely practical point of view, a rally car needs to create a loud and distinctive sound, for the safety of officials, marshals, media and spectators out viewing the rally action.''

The idea was hatched in early 2018, when Paddon and his Wanaka-based father, Chris, were thinking about what PRG's future would be. They decided to continue the Kiwi ingenuity tradition and lead the way from New Zealand - keeping motorsport in line with the automotive industry, which is moving swiftly towards EV technology.

''Motorsport needs to be innovative and motorsport needs to be exciting. If we don't act quickly, we will miss the opportunity for motorsport to remain cutting edge and current,'' Paddon said.

Planning began to establish the organisation's structure, personnel requirements, location and possible commercial partners.

Once the prototype is complete in April, PRG plans to test, develop and run it at smaller domestic events throughout 2020. From 2021, its range will expand so it is capable of running in full-length rallies. The team is also working closely with MotorSport NZ to establish new guidelines for the future of EV cars in motorsport.

MNZ board member Norman Oakley, of Dunedin, spoke at the conference yesterday about New Zealand's long history of innovation.

''Not only in motorsport but generally and we are a small, technologically astute country having been able to do things quickly and without the bureaucracy of large corporations, so this is the ideal opportunity to develop world-leading technology.

''This exciting project follows, as Hayden says, in the footsteps of Burt Munro and John Britten and MotorSport New Zealand fully endorses it.''

Paddon wrapped up his announcement with this promise.

''The future is now and this car is going to be seriously fast, noisy and it will be spectacular.''

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