Holley High Voltage
Born at the dawn of the ICE age, Holley today has 70 brands that almost exclusively cater to gas performance and racing. With the EV market in its sights, though, the Holley High Voltage Experience scheduled for July is attracting some of the biggest names in the performance and racing industry.
Holley began as a carmaker 120 years ago and then turned to supplying carburetors for OEMs before expanding into a leading provider of high-performance automotive aftermarket products for car and truck enthusiasts. The company’s enthusiast-focused events, including LS Fest, are celebrations of high-octane fun. This July 9–10 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, though, the only cars using fossil fuels will be in the parking lot. There will be, however, plenty of burning rubber.
The second annual Holley High Voltage Experience presented by eBay Motors is designed to build a community linking EV enthusiasts to each other and the performance aftermarket and OEMs, according to Holley events manager Blane Burnett.
“While the EV population is still relatively small in the United States, they’re quickly becoming more common and many enthusiasts have taken notice of their performance,” Burnett said. “That’s evidenced by the volume of interest we’re seeing through both Holley and our AEM EV brands.”
The 2021 High Voltage event had great participation in its inaugural year and Burnett looks forward to growing the event for 2022. Burnett explained that Holley designed the High Voltage Experience around three main audiences: 1) owners of production EVs who want to do some track driving, participate in the car show, or meet like-minded enthusiasts; 2) tuners who are modifying EVs for higher performance or improved appearance, and 3) enthusiasts who are converting classic or modern ICE vehicles to EV powertrains.
The 2022 event will again offer car show classes, road course track lapping, autocross, drag racing, and more. Burnett said the event is also structured to attract aftermarket brands that are entering the EV field. The vendor midway features manufacturers, tuners, and OEMs. Last year the event saw participation from Ford Performance, Tesla, Simpson Racing, Summit Racing Equipment, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, and others.
Just as Holley components have long been used for engine swaps, the company sees business potential in the EV swap trend. The event will showcase EV conversions built using components from a variety of Holley’s brands, including the “Salvage to Savage” C10 pickup truck and a DeLorean that attended the 2021 High Voltage event.
“We’ll also have ‘Teslonda,’” a 1980s Honda Accord EV conversion using a Tesla engine with the stance of a 1960s era gasser, “as well as a Tesla-powered Porsche 935 from Bisimoto Engineering,” Burnett said.
Through its Rekudo brand, Holley offers suspension products and custom steering wheels for Tesla vehicles. Events like this, Burnett explained, help build awareness.
“A lot of people in the EV world weren’t as familiar with Holley before our first High Voltage Experience,” he said. “High Voltage changed that for us. Events build a sense of community that excites passion for performance. It’s a great opportunity for us to get to know each other.”
Burnett told PRI that he sees no issues with Holley balancing its ICE and EV product lines. “We’re in the business of going fast and having fun in cars and trucks no matter what powertrain turns the tires,” he said. “We will continue to offer performance products for classic and late-model vehicles, whether they’re ICE or EV powered.”
A Retailer’s Perspective
Summit Racing Equipment in Tallmadge, Ohio, is going to the High Voltage Experience with a bullish view on the emerging EV performance market, according to Alan Rebescher of Summit.
“It’s about being where EV enthusiasts are,” he said. The retailer is walking the walk, too, by entering its own Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor test and development vehicle, “White Lightning,” in all of the event’s racing competitions.
“Racing our Tesla Model 3 gives us the opportunity to engage directly with racers and experience firsthand what it takes to compete with an EV,” Rebescher said. “We learn about how folks are getting more performance out of their vehicles, and what they want to see in terms of parts.”
Rebescher is particularly looking forward to seeing all the professional and DIY conversions. “Just like in the early days of hot rodding, it’s the tinkerers and backyard inventors who are moving things forward,” he explained. “If we can get tech-savvy enthusiasts to daydream about bigger electric motors, more powerful batteries, and enhanced control systems, the industry will continue to grow.”
He expects the younger enthusiasts that EVs attract to play a major role in the company’s plans. “We are in the beginning stages of EV performance,” he said. “Younger enthusiasts are interested and appreciate the tech but don’t yet have much experience with electric vehicles. It will take some time for EVs to become a bigger part of the vehicle mix and for people to be familiar with them.”
Rebescher sees traditional performance enthusiasts as another potential audience. He compared the emergence of EVs with other major changes in the category’s history, including the rapid transition from Ford flatheads to small block Chevys, and from carburetors to fuel injection.
“There was hesitation and a learning curve, but once people got familiar with the new technology and how much it improved performance, they embraced it,” he said.
As with previous ICE performance trends, Rebescher said the growth of the EV performance aftermarket will be driven by availability of cars and parts.
“As more electric vehicles show up on the used car market and in salvage yards, and enthusiasts get their hands on them, demand for performance parts will also grow, especially products that allow racers to unlock and modify their car’s powertrain,” he said.
Rebescher also pointed out that many traditional product types are applicable to EVs, including safety gear, tires, brakes, and suspension. He said he did not see balancing ICE and EV business as “either/or,” adding that the company treats EVs as it does any new market. “It’s simply a matter of adding new applications,” he said.
THE Manufacturer’s Perspective
While kilowatt-boosting mods are inevitable for the EV aftermarket, manufacturers of universal-type parts, such as wheels, have plenty of opportunity.
“We’re set for the EV market,” said Dave Schardt of Forgeline, Dayton, Ohio, one of the sponsors of the Holley High Voltage Experience. “The electric car market is probably the fastest growing market, as EVs are getting more accepted.”
Most customers right now, not surprisingly, are Tesla owners, and the reason is simply sheer volume. Tesla sold about 1 million vehicles worldwide in 2021, with around 352,000 estimated in the US, according to Cox Automotive. (Tesla does not break out US sales separately.)
Schardt confirmed for PRI that the company currently manufactures private-label wheels for a “very large” Tesla aftermarket distributor.
“I’ve seen people who weren’t car enthusiasts buy a Tesla and become car enthusiasts just because they love the car so much,” he said.
Schardt sees the Holley event as an opportunity to establish itself with EV owners at an early point in the market’s growth. “A lot of EV owners who were not necessarily car enthusiasts aren’t knowledgeable about wheel brands,” he observed. “They’re just learning who’s out there and what’s available and forming opinions on performance brands. It’s important to get in front of those people early.”
A Weighty Issue
Another reason to sponsor events such as Holley High Voltage Experience, Schardt explained, is to educate customers. “EVs are heavier, so the wheels require a higher load rating,” he stated. “Tesla owners typically want the lightest possible wheel they can get. There are a lot of light wheels out there, but many EV owners may not realize that, while some may fit their vehicle, they might not be load-rated for it. We try to educate them about that.”
While the EV aftermarket seems Tesla-focused today, Schardt sees it expanding soon as more performance-oriented EVs come on the market. “We’ve done some Audi e-trons. I think the new electric Hummer will be popular for aftermarket wheels, and so will the Tesla Cybertruck, when it comes out. It’s only going to grow.”
Holley High Voltage Experience
Summit Racing Equipment