Nascar Is Going Hybrid

NASCAR’s President let slip his plans for future seasons. It looks like America’s favorite stock car league will include hybrid powertrains very soon.

Is NASCAR going hybrid?

In October 2021, NASCAR’s President revealed that 2024 will “probably” be when the league goes hybrid. He predicts “some type of hybrid engine system” that comes with an “electrification component.”

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What are the chances NASCAR will be hybrid by 2024? Well, officials have been making noise about a hybrid powertrain for so long, it is highly likely it will happen sooner rather than later.

Back in 2019, NASCAR’s senior vice president for racing innovation, John Probst, said publically that the series might introduce hybrid powertrains as early as 2022–according to The Drive. Back then, the plan sounded like hybrid drivetrains for road courses and medium oval tracks, and traditional V8 engines for the superspeedways (Daytona and Talledega).

This may sound strange, but NASCAR was already using separate cars for the separate types of tracks. Then the Association switched to the Next Gen car. One major element of the latest spec is that the teams use a single design for every track.

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Blue prototype of NASCAR's Next Gen car testing at high speed on racetrack.
NASCAR Next Gen car prototype | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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Formula One went hybrid nearly a decade ago. The fastest endurance cars at Le Mans are hybrid as well. Why? A hybrid drivetrain can stretch a tank of gas–especially in a course with a lot of braking and acceleration.

But the reason NASCAR finally goes hybrid may have little to do with performance.

One of the first times NASCAR President Steve Phelps mentioned a potential hybrid drivetrain was not even during a powertrain discussion: reporters were asking him about adding a fourth original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to the current Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota trifecta.

“I would be surprised if a new OEM came in without some sort of electrification, and I am not talking about all electric, I am talking about a hybrid system.”

Steve Phelps, NASCAR president

At the time, many assumed Phelps was referring to a foreign manufacturer such as Honda. Then Dodge announced it is tossing its current lineup in favor of eMuscle. When is Dodge rolling out an all-electric and hybrid lineup? 2024.

What better way for Dodge to advertise its new hybrid technology than with a NASCAR win too? Ford also builds a powerful hybrid PowerBoost drivetrain for the F-150. The PowerBoost might also find its way into a NASCAR Cup car.

The reason NASCAR might finally go hybrid is to help automakers advertise hybrid vehicles.

Will NASCAR go electric?

A blue NASCAR race car speeding down a racetrack, the background a blur.
NASCAR Next Gen car hybrid | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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The OEM engineers and NASCAR officials admit they designed the Next Gen car with a hybrid drivetrain in mind. One key will be the modular, three-piece space frame underpinning the Next Gen car. Another key is the new drivetrain with a motor up front and Corvette-style transaxle in the back. Ford’s Performance global director, Mark Rushbrook, went into detail:

“The first step with hybrid will be relatively easy in the sense that the combustion engine stays the same, the driveline stays the same; well, the transaxle in the rear, you can put on electric motor to drive back there and a modest battery — and boom, you’ve got a hybrid. (sic)”

Mark Rushbrook, Ford Motor Company

What about a fully battery electric vehicle (BEV) for NASCAR? Rushbrook admits “there will be more changed required.” But he concluded that with an “electric motor version” of the existing front clip, you could go fully electric while keeping most of the Next Gen car intact.

Does that mean NASCAR is eyeing electric? Few current BEVs have enough range to complete the Daytona 500, none while racing 180 mph. Its nearly impossible NASCAR will go fully electric, at all the tracks, anytime soon. But the Generation Six Cup car lasted for nine years, so who knows what drivetrains will end up powering the Next Gen car.

Learn more about Dodge and NASCAR or read the Ultimate Guide to the Next Gen car.

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