That’ll Never Work
An Electric Vehicle Completes KOH
Story and Photos by Mike Boyle and Nicole Dreon
In the world of off-road racing, the comment “that will never work” seems to marshal dust junkies to action. Creativity and innovation have always thrived in off-road; the minute we think things have plateaued, a new challenge is thrown down, starting the cycle all over again. Ultra4 racing was one of those “shots in the arm” to the industry that pushed technology and innovation throughout the sport for more than a decade. Then, just when some were starting to think the sport has reached a point where major innovation is beginning to falter, Ultra4 owner, Dave Cole, threw down the gauntlet one more time.
With the stigma of “that will never work in our sport” given to the electric vehicle industry by the majority of us involved, it was only a matter of time before someone stepped up and embraced the rapidly growing field to see just how far to push it.
With this in mind, while planning the 2021 King of the Hammers race week, a class was added to Friday’s Every Man Challenge race. The 2200 class would be open to any battery electric vehicle; the initial racecourse the desert lap (or Lap 1) of the EMC course. No easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, the seventy-seven-mile loop comprises everything the King of the Hammers course is known for. Open desert, tight technical goat trails, rocks, and high-speed lake beds; Lap 1 is a challenge for anyone that dares to pit their vehicle against what it has to offer.
While there were a few teams initially interested in taking on the new challenge, in the end, only one team completed their build in time to take the green flag. Starting with a basic plan, a group of friends, and the same drive that flourishes everywhere in the off-road community, Kyle Seggelin took Bailey Cole’s former 4600-class Toyota 4Runner and converted it to a battery powered electric vehicle in a mere six months. The plan was to keep the current drivetrain intact and adapt the motor and electronics from a Nissan Leaf EV to the Toyota. While starting with a teched and banded platform saved some fabrication, it also proved to create challenges of its own. A custom adapter was designed and fabricated to couple the motor to the Toyota transmission. Special trays and quick disconnects were designed and installed into the cargo area to allow the team to slide the batteries in and out of the car as efficiently as possible. In the end, the team overcame every obstacle throughout the build and made it to the start line on race day.
Leaving last off the line Friday morning, Kyle and his co-driver/sister Dahlia Seggelin made history as drivers of the first EV to compete during the King of the Hammers race week, but like all racers, they didn’t come merely to start the race. They intended to finish. With two planned battery swaps in the remote pit, a couple of minor trail fixes, and a lot of determination, Kyle and Dahlia succeeded in piloting the EVE #2277 across the finish line and into the history books with a time of 7 hours, 42 minutes and 9 seconds.
Like so many other things in our sport, all it took was someone saying “it will never work” and someone else being there to step up and accept the challenge. It didn’t take a major auto manufacturer; it didn’t take a group of investors; it took some curious individuals and some good old down and dirty hands-on fabrication to open the door and open it has. Within weeks of Kyle’s success, other racing venues have opened classes for EVs, and at least one upstart in the EV market has announced they will be competing in future events. While the debate on whether the EV will replace the internal combustion engine is far from being answered, accepting and adapting to future technologies is one thing the off-road community thrives on. Thanks to Kyle and his team, the debate can now move from “that will never work” to “how do we make it faster.”