Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer Is an 800-HP Test Bed for IndyCar’s Future

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  • The Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer takes a look at the hybrid powertrains that will arrive for the 2024 IndyCar season.
  • The IndyCar twin-turbo V-6 is joined by an electric motor and a supercapacitor — a component previously seen in the Lamborghini Sián — to combine for around 800 horsepower.
  • The CR-V Hybrid Racer will make its personal debut this weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg before touring the other tracks on the 2023 IndyCar schedule.

At its heart, Honda is an engineering company, as it likes to remind us in advertisements that showcase its diverse product line from cars to outboards to airplanes. The automaker also has a long history in motorsport and currently supplies engines to five teams in IndyCar, which will introduce hybrid power units for the 2024 season. To prepare for IndyCar’s electrification, Honda let its engineers go to create the CR-V Hybrid Racer, which Honda describes as a “rolling laboratory” that provides a “sneak preview” of the next era of IndyCar- races offer.

The CR-V Hybrid Racer may look like a regular CR-V, which is Honda’s most popular vehicle, but beneath the family car form lies a tube-frame chassis and a mid-mounted twin-turbocharged 2.2-liter V-6. An IndyCar. The V-6 runs on a 100 percent renewable racing fuel developed by Shell for the 2023 IndyCar season, which consists of ethanol derived from sugarcane waste and other biofuels. This engine is paired with an Xtrac six-speed paddle shift gearbox and a unique hybrid system consisting of an electric motor developed by Empel and a supercapacitor from Skeleton Technologies.

While supercapacitors cannot store as much energy for as long as traditional batteries, they are efficient and can release a lot of energy incredibly quickly, making them ideal for performance vehicles. The only production vehicle to use a supercapacitor was the limited edition 2021 Lamborghini Sián.

David Salters, president and technical director of Honda Performance Development, said in a media roundtable that the system produces about 800 horsepower. Salters also explained that the company is focusing on exploring new technologies, stressing that good supercapacitors are a smart choice to deliver a lot of power. The system can be used in a variety of ways, including a “push-to-let” boost, regeneration under braking, filling in for the petrol engine while revving and coasting, and improving drivability by smoothing turbo response .

The CR-V Hybrid Racer’s rear suspension and brakes are adapted from the Dallara-built IndyCar, while the front suspension and brakes are borrowed from an Acura NSX GT-3 Evo22. The dynamic SUV concept rides on Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 summer tires measuring 285/35 front and 305/35 rear, wrapped around 20-inch wheels.

Honda says the CR-V Hybrid Racer’s dramatic appearance was inspired by the Group B rally cars of the 1980s, and while the windshield and greenhouse are standard CR-V parts, the lower bodywork, which includes rigid fender flares, was custom-designed from carbon fiber. The vehicle features extreme aerodynamics, with a huge rear wing, a sharp front splitter and sporty side skirts. Half-size butterfly doors provide access to the stripped interior.

The Hybrid Racer also features a vivid, eye-catching case with a cross-sectional design that hints at elements of the IndyCar powertrain and also includes outlines of some of the tracks that IndyCar competes on. The CR-V Hybrid Racer will be at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and it will make on-track demonstrations at several IndyCar events this year. Hopefully the CR-V Hybrid Racer has inspired Honda to build a sportier CR-V for the road, possibly bearing the Si or Type-R moniker.

Header from Caleb Miller

Associate News Editor

Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at the age of 13, and he realized his dream of writing for an automotive magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and attending the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure cars, aiming to one day own something outlandish like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsport fan.