Published on September 16th, 2013 | by Jo Borrás0
Instant Torque And Blazing Speeds The Best Thing About Electric Cars
September 16th, 2013 by Jo Borrás
With 100% of their torque available at 0 rpm, electric cars have a number of performance advantages that gearheads and greenheads can both appreciate. At a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, “EV pioneer” John E. Waters drove the point home. “Experimental electric cars already have achieved sustained speeds of more than 180 miles per hour, and established world speed records above 300 mph,” he explained. “Electric cars have inherent advantages in efficiency and torque over gasoline-powered vehicles. Energy storage-to-torque on an EV platform is above 90 percent efficient, compared to less than 35 percent for internal combustion engines. I have no doubt that battery-powered race cars will be attracting race fans in the immediate future.”
Obviously, Waters is hardly un-biased. Still, he’s not wrong, and he’s ready to address some of electric cars’ performance shortcomings. “Racing in excess of 150 mph on high-speed ovals will take a significant breakthrough in battery technology for EV race cars … to be competitive in the Indianapolis 500 or NASCAR events,” Waters said, before mentioning in-road charging similar to what Drayson/Qualcomm and Volvo are pioneering. “It brings full-scale images of slot car racing – everyone’s first racing experience as a kid!” Waters said.
Maybe “everyone over 30”, Mr. Waters, but we get what you’re saying.
Still, it’s interesting that, in a world where electric cars are still seen as slow, pokey little things by mainstream America, that we can talk about the possibility of a credible electric Batmobile, a 400 hp hybrid-electric sportbike, and other crazy, battery-powered go-fast toys. Over at Gas 2 a few weeks ago, Chris Demorro wrote an op-ed piece that repeats a lot of the themes Waters covered. I’ve included that, below, and highly recommend clicking that Batmobile link, too. Enjoy!
Who Cares If Electric Cars Go Fast? A Lot Of People, Actually!
As a writer, I generally go out of my way to respect the opinions and musings of other people. While nobody, including myself, is unbiased, I try to approach every argument from both sides. But sometimes, a man must take a stand on his principles, and a recent piece from Plug-In Cars entitled “Who Cares If Electric Racecars Are Not As Fast As Gas Cars?” is too backwards for me to keep my mouth shut.
Penned by Laurent J. Masson, the piece bemoans the fact that Sebastian Loeb dominated this year’s Pikes Peak racing event, an event that electric vehicles were expected to dominate. Yet even though Monster Tajima set a new record for EVs that matched last year’s gas-powered Pikes Peak record, Masson whines that EVs came in some 92 seconds behind Loeb’s record-setting run.
The point Masson then goes on to try and make is that EV buyers don’t care about performance, and neither do Europeans, but rather about range. Yes, range anxiety is real, and I don’t doubt that most current EV owners are more concerned with range than performance, but Masson misses the point.
Current EV owners, or those looking to buy one soon, are already willing to pay a premium price and take on certain inconveniences, like long charge times, limited range, and slow acceleration to drive a gas-less vehicle. What they want doesn’t matter because they already bought an EV. But a vast majority of Americans still want a capable, and preferably engaging electric car that still feels like a regular car, both in convenience and performance. We don’t all need 400 horsepower Mustangs to get us to and from work, but when it comes to merging on a highway or passing a geriatric driver doing 10 mph under the speed limit, would you rather be in a Mustang or a Prius?
Furthermore, the technology developed for racing has a way of trickling down into production vehicles. Sure, maybe electric cars didn’t perform as well at Pikes Peak as hoped, but there was still a lot of talk about them, raising awareness that the capabilities and performance of electric cars are improving by leaps and bounds. Hell, even the notoriously anti-EV Wall Street Journal did a piece on EVs at Pikes Peak, and while tt may take a few more years, I have no doubt that EVs will eventually dominate Pikes Peak, among other racing events.
People love winners, especially Americans, and while range and charging time are important aspects of EV ownership, they are not exciting or sexy. The whole point of Gas2.org (at least under my watch) is to drive home the point that green cars can be fast, fun, and more than just boring commuter appliances.
While the slow-and-steady formula may work for cars like the Toyota Corolla, even the perennial best-seller is capable of outpacing any EV on the market that isn’t a Tesla. Notice how people have been lined up for years to buy a luxury performance EV, even one that costs $70,000. These are the kinds of buyers EV advocates want to convert, because these are the people who become trendsetters, buying all the things we wished we owned. And who here doesn’t wish they owned a Tesla Model S? Watching Elon Musk’s electric luxury car silently pass Mustangs and Porsches at the track is far more thrilling, to me at least, than eeking a few extra miles out of my Leaf’s battery pack.
But the final point that Masson makes is one that can only come from an arrogant, holier-than-thou mindset. I’ll let the words speak for Mr. Masson;
“Rude people drive noisy, smelly, smoking gas cars while subtle thoughtful people glide along in silent electric cars.”
That’s bad enough, right? But wait, it gets worse!
“Not everybody is suddenly going to become sophisticated, but it would be sad if the electric car had to lose its soul, and take on the characteristic of fast petrol-powered vehicles, in order to achieve greater success.”
I don’t swear often on these pages, as I feel it tends to detract, rather than add to my work, but I found myself dropping a litany of (admittedly creative) profanities directed at Mr. Masson upon reading that sentence.
I’m sorry Mr. Masson’s sophisticated European sensibilities are offended by conventional automobiles, especially those designed to go fast. I’m also sorry that he doesn’t think things like acceleration or torque should matter to people, because the thrill of punching the accelerator in a torquey car is one of life’s little joys to me. It’s clear though that Mr. Masson is no authority on automobiles, and that his close-minded nature prevents him from seeing how performance cars and racing helps improve production cars, especially where EVs are concerned.
I am here to tell you that I care about fast electric cars, and I’m not alone. The march of progress demands more power, more speed, and more excitement, and I’ve made it the mission of Gas2 to promote the progress and awareness of green cars by highlighting all they can be. Cars like the 800 horsepower Porsche 918 Spyder, the hydrogen-powered Aston Martin Rapide S, or the all-electric Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive. These cars are the culminations of hundreds of thousands of man hours, of passion, soul, and art in automotive form. The Nissan Leaf is a great car, but if you ask me which of these cars has the most “soul”, the Leaf would be at the bottom of the list.
Which of these would you rather have?
Electric cars in motorsports gives me an underdog to cheer for besides the gas guzzlers that have dominated racing for the past century. Just because your team loses one game doesn’t mean you abandon the entire season. Electric car performance is improving by leaps and bounds everyday, and soon enough EVs will offer comparable, and perhaps even superior performance to conventional cars.
But not if we sit back and say “Well that’s fast enough for a SOPHISTICATED person.”
Sources | Photos: Gas 2, Science Daily
Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”
Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.