Motoramic

How the world’s fastest electric race car gets its speed

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Earlier this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nissan unveiled its 186-mph Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car (ZEOD RC) with plans to tackle the grueling 24-hour race in 2014. Just a few days later, not too far away across the English Channel at Elvington Airfield in North Yorkshire, England, former science-minister-turned-racing-driver Lord Paul Drayson piloted his B12 69/EV electric Le Mans Prototype to 204.185 mph, shattering the 1974 EV speed record of 175 mph in the sub-1,000 kg (2,200 lbs.) category.

Not resting on his laurels, Team Drayson had plans to be at Bonneville Salt Flats this fall to further raise the world record for electric cars under 1,000-kg — until heavy rains washed out Speed Week. Before Lord Drayson returned home, we had a chance to visit with him and learn more about his record-breaking car.

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The Drayson B12 69/EV rides on a carbon fiber Lola LMP1 chassis;the same chassis was previously powered by a conventional racing Judd V-10 that competed in the American Le Mans Series. But underneath the sleek-looking racing exterior now is a new electric drivetrain package built and designed by Drayson Technologies.

The car is driven by four 200kW axial electric motors, two at each rear wheel. In total, the power output can be tuned to produce between 600 and 850 bhp. There are two lithium-Ion battery packs onboard, one residing where the engine would normally sit, and the other takes the place of the gas tank. The one occupying the engine location is encased in protective carbon fiber shell and is a structural component of the car. Both battery packs can be modified for 20 to 30 kWh of capacity depending on the configuration.

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That's sizable power, but bench racers would assume the Drayson's slower on the track than its fossil-fueled variants, especially with the two battery packs onboard the Drayson EV tipping the scale between 440 to 660 lbs. each. “Not so,” notes Lord Drayson. Having driven the car in the Judd V-10 and EV-powered trim, he says the car feels the same, if not more agile thanks to electronic tuning of the electric motors where differential torque can be programmed into the rear to help turn in. The team tells us that its EV racecar accelerates to 60 mph in 3.1 sec., hits 100 mph in 5.0 sec., and powers over 150 mph in just 8.5 sec.

Looking forward, Lord Drayson is excited about the prospects of EV racing, in particular the newly formed Formula E Championships sanctioned by FIA, the same body that looks after Formula One. It will be exclusively held around city streets at venues like London, Los Angeles and Beijing, with inaugural races next year. Asked if the silent EV racing will be just as exciting to watch as the ear-pounding F1, Lord Drayson replies, “you’ll be just as excited to see and hear jet-engine-like air-rushing sounds of EVs racing by.” The world of fast EVs is coming whether we're ready or not.

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