As the first car manufacturer worldwide, Opel is currently developing a fully electric rally car for use in a national championship.
One of the key areas of focus of the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup is safety. The development of the Corsa-e Rally is a trailblazing achievement. As no one has ever held an electric rally one-make cup before, the corresponding rules and regulations must be developed in parallel with the competition car. Opel and the ADAC, as the series operator, are working closely together with the Deutscher Motor Sport Bund – DMSB (German Motor Sport Federation) in this process.
“Safety always comes first at Opel,” emphasises Opel Managing Director Engineering Marcus Lott. “On the one hand, our engineers strive for the greatest possible driving dynamics and driving fun for our customers – on the road as well as on the rally stages. On the other hand, total focus is on operational safety. So also in this respect, customers, organisers and fans can rely on us in the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup. We are all looking forward to exciting and safe rallies in the coming season.”
The Corsa-e Rally is based on the production model. This makes the Opel Motorsport engineers’ challenging work much easier. After all, the Corsa-e already meets the very high European standards for approval of type-approved vehicles. Additional racing-specific regulations stipulated by the FIA and the DMSB serve to further improve safety.
In the underbody of the Corsa-e Rally, high-strength steel protects the 18 battery modules, which in turn are installed in a battery casing. In addition, the car has a two-piece protective plate made of five-millimetre thick aluminium.
Furthermore the Corsa-e Rally, like its series production counterpart, complies with regulation UN ECE R100.02. This defines the conditions for the approval of vehicles with regard to the special requirements for the electric powertrain of road vehicles and their batteries. This includes, for example, the minimum insulation resistance of high-voltage components and lines as well as fire protection. The drive batteries (REESS, Rechargeable Energy Storage Systems) must also fully comply with this regulation in terms of mechanical integrity, vibration, thermal shock, mechanical impact, fire resistance, overcharge protection, over-discharge protection, over-heating protection and external short circuit protection.
The fire extinguishing system required is Lifeline Zero 360. It works with an electrically insulating extinguishing agent, whereby the fire risk in an electrically powered car with no fuel on board is generally much lower than in a conventional vehicle with a combustion engine.
Meticulous monitoring of the high-voltage system
Permanent monitoring of the high-voltage system is also important for the safe operation of an electric rally car. Different faults call for different measures. In the event of an insulation fault, a sophisticated sensor system ensures that the displays of the Master Alarm Indicator System immediately report a fault in the HV system, which is operated at up to 434 volts. The system can then be switched off manually inside and outside the cockpit. Irrespective of this, the HV system is completely switched off within less than one second in the event of a severe delay, such as an accident. The Master Alarm Indicator constantly provides information on the current status of the high-voltage system by means of light signals.
Comprehensive training for safety personnel
The Deutscher Motor Sport Bund is responsible for ensuring that the strict safety regulations can be adhered to at all times during an event. On the one hand, this concerns the technical specification of the car, the key data of which are regulated in Appendix J of the International Sporting Code. However, since these formulations are very comprehensive and highly specific, the DMSB is currently developing a safety concept in cooperation with Opel and TÜV Thuringia that meets the needs of both experts and users in practice.
One of the most important tasks for the DMSB is the training of the rally marshals, from the marshals on the special stages to the Service Park personnel. For all persons who have to perform certain tasks on or with an electric competition car, different safety certifications are required, which are categorized according to the colours blue-green-yellow-orange-red. Only those who are certified in the red category are allowed to carry out work on the high-voltage system of the Opel Corsa-e Rally or any other electric rally car.
The newly developed safety concept for the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup covers all relevant areas for the use of electric rally vehicles. It encompasses the technical specifications, the training of teams and rally marshals as well as information for spectators on the special stages and in the Service Park.
“The DMSB is responsible for careful monitoring of compliance with technical and sporting regulations, which include safety guidelines,” says DMSB Sports Director Michael Günther. “Our task is to develop a concept for electrically powered rallying in order to guarantee the safety of all participants and to make exciting rallying possible. In the first step, this also includes identification and elimination of possible knowledge gaps among all participants.”