This is how you roll: A little deuce coupe with four on the floor, phaat tires and battle scars from stoplight rumbles. Under the hood, a sick, ultra-performance-tuned … electric motor. Whaaa?
Yes, performance EVs, and it’s not an oxymoron. In fact, EVs are inherently biased toward good off-the-line performance because electric motors have full torque at zero rpm. Electric drag racers aren’t a novelty anymore; in fact, they win races. There’s a National Electric Drag Racing Association just to increase awareness of this fast-growing sport -- and these speed racers are on both two wheels and four. Let's go to the videotape, and watch an electric motorcycle set a new world record:
How about this from Design News: “By using hundreds of pounds of batteries and ‘slamming’ massive amounts of electrical current into their drive motors, drag racers are enabling small electric vehicles to beat gasoline-powered Corvettes and Vipers.”
In the “375-volt Kill-a-Cycle,” Bill Dube did a 7.8-second quarter mile at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado last year, finishing at 167.99 mph. Dennis Berube’s 390-volt “Current Eliminator V” was just behind with 7.8 seconds and 159.85 mph at Southwestern International Speedway in Tucson in 2007.
Another Kill-a-Cycle (see the video) is actually a cycle: Scotty Pollacheck’s 500-horsepower, twin-motored motorcycle with 1,200 A123 batteries originally designed for cordless drills. It went zero to 60 in less than a second and reaches 168 mph. Not with me on board, of course.
How about Ferrari-like performance from a Ford Pinto? Mike Willmon’s electric ’78 Pinto reaches 60 in 3.5 seconds and does the quarter mile in 12.5 seconds. “I tore it all down, took the front end down, took the engine. The infamous exploding gas tank is gone,” he told NPR. “Now, the batteries take up the back trunk area where the gas tank used to be, as well as the back seat area.”
But you don’t have to be a drag racer to go fast in an EV. Next year you can buy a 403-horsepower Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid that does zero to 60 in less than six seconds, with a top speed of 125. A turbocharged GM-derived four-cylinder engine provides 265 horsepower, and complements a Q Drive high-performance electric motor. The Fisker can travel 50 miles on its battery power alone, but then there’s a total of 300 miles as that turbo kicks in. There are a few drawbacks: The car costs $87,900 (minus a $7,500 federal tax credit), and though it will go on the market late this year, it is already sold out until 2010.
And there’s also the even more exotic Tesla Roadster, should you have $109,000 available. You can get one right now, and there are several performance tweaks on the “Roadster 2” for 2010, including a push-button “gear” selector, a new, more efficient electric motor with more power, and a center-mounted touch screen that will tell you how many barrels of oil you’ve saved by going electric.
The standard Roadster will get you to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, but the good news is that now you can buy a Roadster Sport ($128,500) that does it in 3.7. The Roadster Sport adds an extra 40 horsepower (thanks to a motor with hand-wound stator and increased winding density — you’re going to have to learn terms like this), Yokohama Ultra-High Performance tires, adjustable shock absorbers and tuned anti-roll bars to the customer’s specifications.
Tomorrow’s teenagers will have zero-emission electric dreams, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Buzz, buzz, zoom, zoom.