While speed has not always been one of the major factors dictating the popularity of electric cars, it is now evident that more and more electric vehicles are now competing on a level playing field with more traditional sports cars. While many believe it was the Tesla Motor company which put electric powered sports cars on the map, a number of other companies have now joined the fray and the sector is starting to fill up.
So what can we expect from electric cars of today and electric cars of tomorrow?
In order to give you an understanding of the current market situation we will list a number of mass-market electric cars available today as well as a number of prototypes which have grabbed the attention of electric car experts and opened many minds with regards to what could and should happen in the future.
There is no doubt that the Tesla Roadster is clearly head and shoulders above any of the electric cars on the market today in relation to speed and design. This two-seater, open top sports car, is able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds in "base mode", although this very impressive acceleration is reduced to 3.7 seconds in "sports mode". The vehicle has a top speed of 125 mph, which is actually limited by the electrical system in the car, and has a range of 245 miles.
Despite the excessive speed available with the Tesla Roadster, it takes just 3.5 hours to fully recharge and battery life is expected to be seven years or 100,000 miles. Powered by a lithium-ion battery with nearly 7,000 individual cells this is a vehicle which is literally at the pinnacle of the electric sports car market and continues to be improved on an ongoing basis.
Many people believe that Tesla has actually opened up the sports car market within the electric vehicle arena due to its cutting-edge technology and the ability to tie up with some of the best names in electronic sector. Such is the demand for Tesla vehicles that many are sold on a limited basis although thankfully the future rollout of new and improved vehicles is getting longer by the year.
Ultimate Aero EV
The Ultimate Aero EV is basically an electronic version of the SSC Ultimate Aero which is a supercar produced by Shelby SuperCars. However, despite the fact that the Ultimate Aero EV is an electric powered car the vehicle gives very little away against its traditional fuel counterpart!
The vehicle itself is not yet available on the market and could well be introduced on a limited order basis. Even though it could be some time before the vehicle is available to the mass market, when you consider it has a massive 1,000 HP and 800 lb-ft of torque it certainly seems to be a car worth waiting for. It is believed the vehicle will be able accelerate from a standing start to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds with a top speed of up to 210 mph.
Despite the excessive power available with the Ultimate Aero EV the vehicle has an onboard recharging system which could see the onboard battery recharged in as little as 10 minutes. The vehicle will be able to cover a range of between 150 miles and 200 on any single charge, depending upon the speed of travel. The company has also announced it is going to explore potentially installing two engines on the Ultimate Aero EV in a 2 or 4 wheel drive configuration which would push electric car technology literally to the limit!
The Lightning GT is an electric sports car which many people believed would be available in the mass market anywhere between 2008 and 2009. However, unfortunately, the vehicle has been delayed until 2010 for unspecified reasons. While this is obviously a disappointment for electric car enthusiasts, it is worth taking a look at the specifications for the Lightning GT because this is a vehicle with waiting for!
The vehicle will have four separate 120 kW wheel motors (providing four-wheel-drive) and a regenerative braking system which allows for the recycling of any energy potentially at risk of loss through the braking system. However, it is the makeup of the vehicle which is catching the eye of many enthusiasts because the body will consist of carbon fiber and Kevlar composites giving the vehicle a lightweight look and a lightweight feel for greater efficiency.
The Lightning GT will be able to accelerate from a standing start to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and offer a top speed of around 130 mph. It may be surprising to learn that this company is UK-based and despite the delay in delivery of the Lightning GT there are high hopes for the future. Unlike many other electric car manufacturers, the Lightning Car Company will be using lithium titanate battery packs which are slightly different to the more common lithium-ion batteries used in the market today.
The only potential problem at the moment is finding a publically available power supply strong enough to recharge the batteries, which take roughly 10 minutes to recharge, although the company is in talks with a number of nationwide UK companies about offering recharging facilities. This is a vehicle which many people believe is worth waiting for!
AC Propulsion tzero
The bizarrely named AC Propulsion tzero electric sports car was initially built by AC Propulsion of the US until the project was pulled in 2003. However, it is worth taking a look at the three prototypes which were designed and built by the company as they were at the time very much cutting-edge and very much leading-edge in the electric sports car market.
The body of the vehicle consisted of a fiberglass coating over a reinforced steel frame which gave the vehicle the strength and the durability of a sports car while also remaining fairly lightweight. Despite the fact that the technology of the time dictated that the vehicle ran on 28 lead acid batteries the company confirmed that the vehicle, despite being a single gear system, was able to hit a top speed of around 90 mph (although this was rumoured to have hit around 130 mph with changes to the gear system). Indeed, from a standing start it took just over 4 seconds to hit 60 mph which at the time was a very impressive statistic.
The vehicle itself contained a revolutionary battery recharging system which allowed the energy produced when the throttle was released to be translated into rechargeable power which was used to refill the batteries. It is believed the company stepped back from mass market production of the vehicle due to ever-increasing production costs but there are still three of the AC Propulsion tzero cars around today, one held by the company and two others in private ownership.
Perhaps we will see the AC Propulsion tzero, or an offshoot, in production in years to come?
1972 Electric Datsun
Who would have thought that a customised 1972 Electric Datsun would actually be renowned as one of the fastest electric cars in the world? Well, this little beauty was customised with the introduction of very expensive lithium ion batteries which literally pushed the vehicle to the limit resulting in a time of just 2.95 seconds for the vehicle to move from a standing start to 60 mph!
The vehicle covered a quarter of a mile in just over 11 seconds and managed a top speed of just over 114 mph. However, it is believed that the vehicle itself could actually have hit 130 mph in perfect conditions and on a perfect road. In many cases this illustrates the fact that it is the technology under the bonnet which is the driving factor of the electric car market, although it has to be said that ultralightweight body frames of today do make a big difference to the efficiency, the speed and distance these vehicles are able to travel.
In order to give a new angle on the electric vehicle market we thought it would be interesting to bring you details on the award-winning KillaCycle which is renowned as the fastest electric powered motorcycle in the world. Specifically built for drag racing this is a vehicle which weighs just 619 pounds, contains series and parallel onboard motors and is powered by lithium-ion phosphate batteries.
However the real statistics are the fact that the vehicle has a top speed of 170 mph, is able to cover a quarter of a mile in just under 8 seconds and most impressively can go from a standing start to 60 mph in just 0.97 seconds!
What can we expect from the future electric car market?
As we have detailed above, there are a number of high profile electric sports cars available in the mass market today although it has to be said they are not cheap. While the cost of developing mass-market electric cars is significant, the cost of developing mass-market electric powered sports cars is literally at the top end of the cost range. These are specialist markets which have attracted the likes of Tesla Motors and other prominent motor company's with experience and contacts within the high-speed car industry.
There is no doubt that developments in battery power, lightweight body materials as well as the internal engines of electric vehicles will continue to push the boundaries of speed and durability further and further. Even though a number of the faster prototypes revealed to motoring shows around the world over the last few years may never reach the mass market they do offer a useful basis as concept cars and ideas for the future.
Will we see electric versions of the more popular sports cars?
There is no doubt that the likes of Ferrari and Porsche will become very prominent names in the electric sports car market of the future. As we mentioned above, Tesla has literally come from a standing start to show that electric power can translate into very high speeds, something which many of the traditional sports car manufacturers are now realising. When you consider the existing market for many of the more popular Ferrari and Porsche types, to name but two vehicle manufacturers, there would potentially be thousands of buyers for electric versions of these ever popular cars.
However, when you consider the likes of Ferrari and Porsche produce some of the most high spec vehicles in the world they will literally wait until their electric car versions are perfect so as not to damage the reputation of the company's, which have taken decades to build up.
Despite the fact that the electric car market as a whole is very much in its infancy, although certainly becoming more commonplace around the world and more popular, it will surprise many to learn of the technology currently available in the electric car market which can be translated into the sports car market. Many of these vehicles, which can hit top speeds well in excess of 120 mph, will likely remain on the fringe of the mass-market due to the high spec and often high production costs.
These are not vehicles which would easily convert to a conveyor belt type car manufacturing processes with many of them handmade, often to order. When you are potentially travelling at speeds which can in some cases exceed 200 mph, the attention to detail on these vehicles needs to be top grade. In many ways it is only the safety aspects of high-speed electric cars which has held back the speeds available today with many concept cars, although very useful as a basis for the future, far exceeding the specifications which any sports car manufacturer could reach in the current safety environment.
However, the need for speed continues to build within the electric car market and this is a need which more and more companies will be looking to fulfill in the short, medium and longer term. In many cases the cost of these vehicles is irrelevant, due to the specific target market, with many buyers scrambling to be the first to get their hands on the latest, greatest and fastest electric sports car in the market – at any price!