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Electric Cars Do a Donut in Drag

Mar 22, 2016 - By: B.B. Kane

Photo Credit: Motrolix


Racing, that is.  Emerging in late 1800’s, prior to the promotion of readily-available gasoline, electric vehicles (EVs) were the predominant mode of vehicular transportation.  Not long afterwards, in true enthusiast fashion, people began to race their electric cars.  In fact, “Electric cars held the world land speed records from 1898 to 1902, beating out steam and gasoline-powered vehicles” with top speeds which peaked at a then-impressive 35 mph.  Don’t feel bad, your likely reaction to that statistic is comparable to the general sentiment towards EVs a few short years ago.  As gas-powered vehicles exploded in popularity on the streets and race tracks, the manufacturing of EVs stagnated, and not until the late 1990’s did mass-market EV production finally make a rocky return. During this tenuous time, the EV garnered a reputation as being slow (aka boring) so its primary fans were those folks who were interested in cost savings on fuel and supporting a greener environment.  Albeit commendable reasons for a routine car purchase, these are generally not the qualities which inspire enthusiasts.  We like cars that go FAST, cars that are FUN to drive, in a word cars that are BADASS.  Most of us would have politely declined a 1990’s Honda EV Plus with its 0-30 mph acceleration capability of 4.9 seconds (yes, 30 mph not 60).  Automakers heard our thanks-but-no-thanks stance and as a result, production EVs have jumped on the enthusiast bandwagon, commanding a renewed respect.  Premium companies like Porsche, BMW, and of course Tesla presently manufacture cars which rival (and sometimes outrace) our quickest production hot rods.


Photo Credit: Teslarati


The resurgence of EVs might not be news to the green-conscious consumer but in the racing world it’s been making headlines.  Early last year, the plug-in 2015 Tesla Model S P85D went head to head in a drag race with the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat leaving it in the dust and setting a new production EV world record with an 11.6 second elapsed time and a 114.6 mph trap speed.  Fear not petrol-heads, in a rematch a few months later, the Hellcat reclaimed its victory and status with an 11.08 elapsed time at a trap speed of 125.92.  Whether you are team Tesla or team Hellcat, it’s fair to say that both of these rides brandish some rather remarkable times.  However, this conversation prompts an obvious question: is this a fair fight?  Naysayers can argue that in a gas-powered vehicle, the driver must actually excel at driving in order to accomplish a quick reaction time when leaving the starting line and continue to maneuver the car to its highest possible top speed within a quarter mile.  In an EV, a computer which will inevitably react more quickly than a human is at the wheel so the driver doesn’t necessarily require the same skills.  The driver of a Hellcat’s 3.7 second 0-60 might indeed enjoy the view of a Tesla’s rear bumper as the latter speeds away from 0-60 in only 3.2.  Even in a handicapped or bracket race the Tesla has the expected reaction time advantage if both cars run equally close to their dial-ins without breaking out.   Although it is undeniably quick, the P85D loses in the top speed contest at a reported 155 mph compared to the Hellcat’s 204 mph.  Each type of vehicle has its distinct advantages so supporters of these challenges can contend that this meets the criteria for fairness in such a race.  After all, each car did win a match against the other.  With both camps actively pursuing the innovation of ever faster, quicker, and cooler models, future EV versus gas-powered matchups will continue to intensify.  


Electric cars have certainly pulled off a grand comeback but as of yet they remain the new kids on the block in modern racing.  If EVs aren’t your thing that’s okay; members of our enthusiast community have often navigated change in their own way without wavering in their loyalty to the spirit of the sport. Perhaps EVs have piqued your interest but the Tesla doesn’t do it for you?  Did you know that the Chevy Corvette Electric is faster?  Whatever your drag preference, the essential factor is fun.  Let’s face it, if you revel in the familiar, ear-shattering roar of cars like the Hellcat and delight in billowy, exhaust-thickened air, you might not enjoy a National Electric Drag Racing Association event.  If you basically want to watch quick cars battle for the Bigger Badass designation, it might not matter to you who the players are.  As Johnny Hellcat stated on Hellcat.org after winning the aforementioned rematch: “It doesn't matter if those cars are American or Foriegn , gas or electric ! In the end it's really just about people having fun and enjoying thier cars , and that's what we did tonight !“ (Spelling doesn’t matter either when you are that rightfully psyched).



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