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Next-generation Subaru WRX STI to go electric? New motorsport concept hints at future electric powertrain for WRX later this decade

The STI E-RA concept has four electric motors – one attached to each wheel.

Subaru’s performance sub-brand, STI (Subaru Tecnica International), has uncovered a wild motorsport concept that could foreshadow a future electric powertrain for the WRX.

Revealed at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, the STI E-RA Concept has been developed as part of the STI E-RA Challenge Project, a “near-future” motorsport study that aims to develop experience of new powertrain tech “in the world of motorsports in this carbon-neutral era focused on combating global warming”.

Aside from the headlight signature, the concept carries few Subaru design cues, instead adopting an aerodynamic stance with a huge front splitter, F1-style wheel arches and roofline and a gigantic rear wing.

Subaru says the main goal for the concept is to be able to record a lap time of six minutes and 40 seconds in a time attack at the famed Nürburgring circuit in Germany from 2023, but not before testing it on circuits in its native Japan.

That time would see it beat the laps of some legendary vehicles, including the Porsche 911 GT2 RS (6:43.30), Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series (6:43.62), Lamborghini Aventador SVJ (6:44.97) and the all-electric Nio EP9 (6:45.90).

The concept, which was teased by Subaru in December, is fitted with four electric motors, all directly attached to each of the car’s four wheels, according to STI, which ensures greater responsiveness and yaw control.

The “high-torque, high-revolution” motors feature an integrated inverter and a transmission for “hyper EVs” developed by fellow Japanese company, Yamaha. The powertrain includes a 60kWh lithium-ion battery and the total system output is a massive 800kW.

Grip and stability are enhanced by the torque vectoring system, which STI says “calculates the signals from sensors in wheel speed, vehicle speed, steering angle, G-force, yaw rate, brake pressure, and wheel load, determines the drive/braking torque of each wheel to gain a target stability factor, and provides instructions to the inverter”.

While the concept and the powertrain tech are for designed for motorsport duties, it’s conceivable that elements of the EV technology will eventually trickle down to Subaru performance models like the WRX and more hardcore WRX STI.

It won’t be the upcoming WRX, however, as that will be powered by a turbocharged 2.4-litre petrol engine pumping out 202kW and 350Nm. Subaru is yet to announce details for the WRX STI but it is rumoured to be upping power to a tick under 300kW.

That means an electric WRX will be the generation after next which wouldn’t land until later this decade.

Subaru is no stranger to motorsport, having participated in the World Rally Championship for decades. It is also part of the Japanese Super GT Series, the Subaru BRZ one-make race series and the Nürburgring 24-Hour race.