#TIL: Setting the pace: How an Electric Car helped create sporting history

By Yash Narain

The pack of runners during Eliud Kipchoge’s epic sub-2 hour marathon run. Kipchoge is in the middle wearing white.
Source:
INEOS 1:59 Challenge

In 2019, champion marathoner Eliud Kipchoge broke the mythical two hour time barrier in long-distance running- covering 26.2 miles in 1:59:40. This is one of the greatest sporting feats in history.

Kipchoge’s attempt was denied world record status for it was not an open competition and was heavily overengineered. The location for the exhibition, Vienna, was chosen specifically for its flat terrain. There was a rotating cast of pacers to shield Kipchoge from the wind and he even wore customised energy efficiency enhancing shoes.

The true star of the supporting cast, however, was an altered electric car travelling in front of the runners at a constant speed to set the pace for the pack. Its accelerator resolution was upgraded to outperform traditional cruise control systems and achieve the needed accuracy. The runners and the car carried transponder chips which were read by regularly placed kilometer markers to provide real-time feedback. The car was fitted with lasers projecting a formation pattern and a pace line on the road to help the runners hold their position. It even had an LED board to help them keep track of the time.

The laser pattern emanating from the pace-setting electric car. Source : INEOS 1:59 Challenge

The most important consideration for the car, however, was to operate in a way that did not disturb the runners. EVs do not generate any tailpipe emissions and can be nearly silent when moving on the roads. Just as an electric car helped Kipchoge create history, EVs can help us achieve a myriad of environmental and economic goals. The challenge in front of us is- how do we set the pace for rapid EV adoption?

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