When most people think of electric cars, they think about their efficiency and environmentally friendly features. But would you believe these cars are also known for their speed in drag racing?
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley agreed in his opening lines to introduce the video Electric cars redefine future of drag racing. “The main selling point for electric cars has been avoiding trips to the gas station. But now car companies are putting new emphasis on performance. Think ‘Fast—very fast.’”
Electric vs Gas Powered
Success in drag racing is determined by two things: the time it takes to complete the distance, usually a quarter-mile, and the greatest speed attained over the distance.
In this YouTube video, at the end of the run, the sign to the right of the track flashes 9.209 which is the time in seconds, and then 114.8 which is the top speed in miles per hour (MPH).
Electric vehicles (EVs) are generally quicker off the line than gas-powered vehicles of the same power because electric motors produce 100% torque at zero RPM.
But EVs aren’t yet capable of going faster for a longer period of time. Improving battery technology is narrowing the difference.
Since drag racing (and the whole automobile industry) has been completely dominated by gas vehicles until recently, races between electric and gas vehicles are often used in commercials to show the incredible progress electric car manufacturers are making.
Brooks Weisblat is the current record holder for the Street Production class of electric cars. Here he describes racing his Tesla against a Lamborghini.
Organized Electric Drag Racing
The majority of electric drag racing events in North America are overseen by the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA). Electric drag-racing vehicles are classified by traditional rules including modifications, voltage, and battery type.
NEDRA recognizes 10 classes of drag-racing 4-wheel vehicles. Their website lists the record holder in each class. This is one video that represents the vehicles for each class, though not all of them actually fit the defined categories.
The Street Production class is for basic street-legal and licensed mass-produced vehicles that are originally created to be EVs. EVs. Record holder Brooks Weisblat produced this video. The results are not obvious from the video. The Leaf started faster but lost; the Volt caught up after about 1/8 mile.
The Pro Street Production class is for street legal and licensed vehicles that have minor performance or alterations from the original production specs while still maintaining their street appearance and drivability.
The Pro Modified Street Production class is street bodied and stock-chassied vehicles that have been heavily altered from the original production specs for racing. The record-holder is Tammy Fargo with the Nissan Leaf, Current Attraction.
Jonny Smith in the Flux Capacitor 74 Enfield 8000 broke the world record at Santa Pod Raceway for the quickest street-legal electric vehicle with a time of 9.86 seconds and a whopping speed of 121.73mph!
The Street Conversion class is for basic street legal and licensed conversions that have not been significantly modified for racing.
The Pro Street Conversion class is for street legal and licensed conversions that have minor performance alterations for racing while still maintaining their street appearance and drivability.
The Pro Modified Street Conversion class is for street bodied and chassied vehicles that have been heavily modified for racing. “Doorslammer” means cars whose doors can be opened as opposed to funny cars.
In the previous two videos, you’ll see the difference between the “quickest” and “fastest” and also the possibility that the record at the time may have been surpassed later.
Drag Vehicle Classes
The Extreme Street class is for full-bodied street vehicles that are built as all-out race vehicles.
Next, there’s the Club Car class, which is only for golf carts. Cool, but not quite as impressive.
The Funny Car/Altered class is for drag race chassis that are generally door-less fiberglass bodies and include but not limited to funny cars, altered dragsters, T-bucket dragsters, and convertible dragsters.
The Rail Dragsters class includes Full-Rail Dragsters, Sand Rails, Formula Racers, and SFI Spec Junior Comp Dragsters. This video shows the GoPro footage of the record run set by the all-electric dragster “Panic in Detroit” August 5, 2016.
HISTORY MADE! 1ST ELECTRIC CAR TO ECLIPSE 200 MPH ON THE DRAG STRIP! STEVE HUFF’s ELECTRIC DRAGSTER!
This run by Steve Huff in the dragster known as Current Technology remains the only time an EV has surpassed the 200-MPH barrier. It also holds the record for the quickest quarter-mile — 7.52 seconds!