The UK government's recent £25 million electric car program which will see a number of significant trials across the UK has dovetailed expertly with the launch of the Lightning GT electric powered sports car. The vehicle is the brainchild of the Lightning Car Company and is set to hit the market in late 2009 with a £120,000 price tag. So what exactly do you get for your £120,000?
The Lightning Car Company
This is a company which was created specifically to bring to market a number of high-profile concept cars which are both viable and likely to stretch the boundaries of electric power technology. There is no doubt that the company has made an excellent start with the launch of the Lightning GT but what exactly can we expect and why is there so much hype surrounding the launch?
The Lightning GT
In very basic terms the Lightning GT is able to reach speeds of 130 mph and will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just four seconds. There are many aspects to the car which are revolutionary and groundbreaking but it is the four separate 120 kW wheel motors which are catching the eye. They provide four-wheel-drive and regenerative braking, giving an output of some 650 brake horse power. This little beauty can hit top speed in double quick time but also offers excellent handling control and speed reduction with the latest technology available.
The body of the Lightning GT
Even though many of the technological challenges are related to the power of the latest electric vehicles there is also a need to reproduce the lightest and strongest materials for the bodywork. The Lightning GT uses the latest carbon fibre and Kevlar composite to offer both lighter body weight and extreme strength. This particular development does have a great impact on the overall efficiency of the vehicle, the acceleration and the maximum journey distance between charges.
How far does the Lightning GT travel on one charge?
This is the holy grail of electric vehicles, the distance which a vehicle can travel without needing to be recharged or batteries replaced. When you consider that the Lightning GT is able to travel for nearly 190 miles (300 km) on a single full charge then we are starting to see the emergence of a real competitor to the current oil-based fuel vehicles.
Charging times for the Lightning GT
There is no doubt that charging times, and recharging stations, have caused significant problems for earlier electric powered vehicles. However, the Lightning GT offers three different options to ensure excellent recharging capacity and variability. The car can be charged overnight using a domestic power supply, within just a couple of hours using a three phase power supply and within just 10 minutes using a fast charger unit.
The vehicle is powered by the latest Altairnano NanoSafe lithium-titanate battery pack which has a life expectancy of around 12 years and will retain 80% of its capacity after more than 15,000 deep cycles. This is in effect the creme de la creme of the lithium battery market and something which is sure to feature more and more in the electric car market.
How does the regenerative braking system work on the Lightning GT?
While regenerative braking is not a new term in the motor vehicle industry, the introduction of regenerative braking into the electric car market has excited many car enthusiasts around the world. In simple terms, the Lightning GT has four motors positioned by each of the four wheels which drive the car forward using the power supplied by the lithium-titanate battery.
However, as many car enthusiasts will know, around 30% of a car's energy is lost through braking where the heat created simply disappears into the environment. Using a groundbreaking regenerative braking system for the Lightning GT, when the driver wishes to slow down there are no disks involved and no heat is created. The motors by each wheel simply turn to reverse using the power created as the vehicle slows down to actually recharge the battery power supply.
Does the Lightning GT perform well in extreme conditions?
A number of electric vehicles in the past have seen a significant reduction in their performance and efficiency when experiencing extreme weather conditions. However, thankfully the Lightning GT has a battery system which can operate efficiently in temperatures between 75° C and -30° C which takes in each and every possible weather extreme you could hope, or not hope, to encounter!
Will we see a number of variations of the Lightning GT?
While the Lightning GT which we have described above is set to hit the market in 2009 for a flat fee of £120,000, the company will be introducing a number of different variations over the months and years ahead. It is the company's intention to introduce right and left drive vehicles in due course as well as a convertible version which is expected to be available by 2012 at the latest.
The vehicle will initially be available in the UK, which is the home of the manufacturer, although there are plans to ship to and manufacture vehicles in the rest of Europe, North America and the major electric vehicle markets around the world. The UK market is certainly just the start of a major expansion programme which could see the car hit the rest of the world within three years!
The Lightning GT has set tongues wagging in the UK having been launched at the same time as the UK government's £25 million electric vehicle trials across the country. It has certainly caught the attention of the UK masses and while the £120,000 price tag will obviously reduce the initial market size in the UK we should at some stage see cheaper versions emerging.
When you consider the speeds available, the distance available and the time taken to recharge the top of the range battery power system this vehicle does seem to have it all. It will be interesting to see how large a part it plays in the UK trials which are set to begin over the next few weeks with ongoing reports to be released to the press on a regular basis. The UK has certainly taken hold of the electric car market in Europe and the Lightning GT has pushed the market further forward leaving many European and overseas electric vehicle manufacturers in the shadows.