Nice story, Chuck. I had no idea electric drag racing has come so far. Just the fact that there is a National Electric Drag Racing Association says tons. I live not far from a street that sees a lot of peeling out on Friday and Saturday nights. My neighborhood will be a tad quieter once these electrics take over.
Half the fun of going to a drag race is hearing the huge roar of the cars -- particularly after the opening flag. I don't see the fun or appeal of an electric car drag race. And as for those kids a couple streets over, I think they'll still prefer the noisy cars too.
Fun piece, Chuck. Really enjoyed it. Any chance these speed demons have any wisdom/best practices/engineering techniques that they can impart to the big electric cars guys to advance the technology even further and a faster clip? Is there any knowledge sharing going on?
Hi Beth, why yes we do. Anyone from any from any manufacturers are free to visit our website at www.nedra.com. We also have a NEDRA Yahoog group dedicated to discussions. There have been a few engineers from several of the EV Manufacturers, but none of the big ones. We know and have talked with several of the engineers at Tesla. However many of the big names are looking at manufacturering econimies of scale to the point that all the fun stuff is left out of their design. Take my Pinto for example. It was an American version of a lack luster grocery getter. Ford would never have put another dime in for another feature until they were faced with exploding cars and were forced to put a $2.50 rubber bladder in the fuel tank. But hey, lose the constraints of big business monetary criteria and you actually can make a Pinto go fast and be fun, and safer too. But most of us are not in it for the money. Its mainly to show people that electric cars can be fun, they can be luxurious if you want, and they can be fast and that it can be done for not a whole bunch of money. If everybody that saw our street legal cars on the track went to Ford, or GM or Nissan or Mitsubishi or Toyota and demanded "We want Fast Sporty Electric Cars that are safe and pretty" they may start to take note. We are seeing some of the overseas manufacturers developing road racing series type cars, so we know they are looking at it. And its just like the old saying goes, " if it wins at the track on Sunday, it sells on Monday".
What they did is work hard and spent the money and over time built great machines. DC Series motors have tons of instant torque starting up, 3 times as much as most AC motors and in many cases we could buy them for scrap prices, clean them up or rebuild them for little cost.
DC controllers only need 1 power output while AC needs at least 3 x's the silicon and other things, making them much more costly.
The Zilla was, maybe still is the highest output for an EV controller and until recently, you couldn't get anywhere near the power, 600+kw, in AC.
If Detroit wanted they could build a DC EV using forlikt technology with an aero composite body/chassis like the GM showcar, the Ultra-Lite. Such a 4 seat EV with lithium batteries could go 150 miles and if done in medium tech composites instead of carbon fiber could be sold profitability for under $15k in 2014. Then a lightweight 8kw generator in a rear quarter panel would give it unlimited range at more than 100mpg solves any lingering range worries.
Then thre are the cool 2 and 3wh EV's with or without cabins. Recently the Lightning EV MC became the fastest production MC in the US of any type at 239mph if I remember right.
There will be many with/without cabin MC 100 mile EV's for commuting to crosscountry with 300 mile ranges and 15 minute recharge times because they are light, very aero so need much smaller battery packs, motors, etc. These I think in 10 yrs will be the trend because they will cost 25% to run vs an ICE and as they are more simple, as the price of lithium batts drops, cost less to build too.
Present production lithium cells like Tesla uses cost under $250kwhr now in 1,000 cell lots to anyone who wants them. That proves that materials are under $175/kwhr so as production ramps up, even these costs will drop.
Thanks for the intel, Jerry. Are you an enthusiast or are you actively involved in any of these electric drag racing efforts?
I have to agree with a number of points made by mellowfellow, including his point about how the original automotive industry evolved along the lines of what's happening currently in the EV world. I also think there's merit to the idea that even though EVs are still not cost effective, it isn't necessarily a turn off for everyone. As mellowfellow notes, many people don't make buying designs about cars or phones or whatever simply based on the numbers, but rather let emotional factors drive decision making. So, if someone really wants (and can afford) an EV, they're going to go for it even if the technology is far from perfected.
I'm not in the drag racing part but have known them, moslyt online EV groups and some in person, mostly on the EVDL EV discussion list which has more EV experts and people who actually build, drive more EVs than anywhere else for over 20 yrs and help others who are trying to build good EV's. To Find more info on EV drag racing and EV links, just google EV Racing and follow the links.
As for me I design and build lightweight EV's with 2 to 4 wheels, composites, boats, wind/tidal generators . I do it because it's the only way to get reasonable priced EV's that are very cost effective. For instance I drive a Harley size 700lb EV MC trike with 60 mile range and lead batteries.
Now done in composites such a unit seating 2 with an aero cabin with an 80 mph top speed could easily be built for under $10k. Such a vehicle would cost about $.01/mile for electric US average and battery costs. Such a vehicle would pay for itself just in gas savings over 5 yrs. And done with the right looks, ad campaign could be very cool.
Another future EV will be an aero cabin composite body 2wh MC that will go 100 mph for 150-200 miles. These and other lightweight, aerodynamic EV's only need 25% of the battery pack, EV drive thus far cheaper to build. Likely in just 2-3 yrs they will cost less to build than ICE versions.
I've long studied the battery cost issue and there is no reason lithium batteries OEM sould cost over $200kwhr in 2 yrs. Why is you can buy cells now for under $250/kwhr in 3 amp sizes like Tesla, Toyota. Mostly this is because huge numbers of battery manufacturers and chemical/suppliers fighting for a fairly small market with only 100,000EV's or less next yr and those are sewn up but a few players. My bet is GM, Nissan are getting Battery Packs with BMS for about $450/kwhr, mostly because of low production. As they get experience, automate more and material prices drop to about $125/kwhr, packed prices should be under $250kwhr.
So to conclude, EV's need to be built as low drag thus aero and lightweight so good performance can be had from smaller, less costly EV drives, batteries is the future in EV's. And they will be, as my EV's are, very cost effective.
Please note that Design News Magazine has had a leadership position in its electric race tech reports, and has followed electric drag racing developments even earlier than 2007. There was an article on the "Bad Amplitude" dragster developed by Net Gain Technologies, a racer in the style of a top fuel "rail job," back in 2002. I am pleased to note that as a consultant to Warfield Electric Co., Inc., the motor manufacturer, I participated in the development of the high-performance, direct-current motors used in Bad Amplitude. Design News had a nice write-up in the October 07, 2002 issue. Please see the complete article at: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=216569 This dragster had been retired for some time, but with battery technology advances since that time, Net Gain plans to reactivate the dragster project.
EVs seem to be taking a very slow, evolutionary path. Why a single motor in the gas engine's place? Where are the revolutionary designs?
Where are the vehicles with a smaller motor in each wheel hub? Where is the regenerative braking that these motors could offer? Four motors offers redundancy; you can still get home on three if one fails.
The future I saw as a kid should have been here already, but it seems as far away now as it did then.
It's also interesting to me that the price of EV's aren't at a level to cause a mass exodus of gas car buyers to change of over.
I drive about 35k miles per year. I know that's twice what the "average" driver drives....but I priced the vehicles that could do 100 miles a day (my minimum) and found that the cost of a mid-sized gas powered car plus the cost of gas (for me) turned out to be almost the same as an EV with it's electric consumption requirements over 4 years.
The result for me was this: An EV with a range of 100 miles per day (on one charge) cost so much more than a comprable gas vehicle that the savings in fuel was offset by the higher base price of the car.
Obviously, if the average consumer drives only 40 miles a day, there is going to be some savings more than what I would experience. But until people start really making the switch, what incentive is there for the auto industry to change its ways?
Energy storage is the key. Until there is a revolution in storage, EVs and alternate energy sources simply aren't going to work.
The revolution has to both increase the energy density in the storage media, AND bring the cost down. It then won't matter which comes first, people clamoring for it or Detroit pushing it; EVs will come into their own.
People won't make the switch until it's economical. Detroit won't switch until people start buying. Lovely Catch-22.
I'm waiting for Daniel Shipstone to be born so we can get on with this. If anyone has an idea to rival Heinlein's Shipstones, build it and we will come.
This was a very well written article. I was disappointed that it was not totally updated and rewritten - but I will take what I can get.
Sometimes I think that 'techno-folks' get too wrapped up in technical stuff. The way for anything to happen in the EV arena is for folks to 'WANT EVs'. If one looks at the automobiles that led the revolution at the end of the 19th century - they were not water tight, there was no infrastructure, they cost too much, they could no go long distances, etc. But one important thing happened - folks saw some advantage and a few rich folks bought them and lots of other folks wanted them. The quietest and most reliable autos [electrics] went from market leaders to endangered species in a few years. During this time infrastructure like roads and gas stations grew into existance. If you change a few of the words, the same could happen for EVs.
One problem that folks have is their thinking - we can comprehend that we need to buy a truck to haul stuff, a 2 seat sports car for fun, a small efficient car for commuting, a large vehicle for our 5 kids, etc. The problem is that in most folks mind, each of these specialty cars needs to be able to drive 500 miles in a day - even if they never do it. We have a thinking problem [interestingly almost every argument, or concern, wrt EVs was applied to the first automobiles].
There is no technical reason that the electrical infrastucture cannot evolve. If coal is a problem there is no reason not to use natural gas to generate electricity.
Teslas have already made an impact on a few people and the Volts, Leafs, et al might do the same. Electric racing is usually an eye opener for folks who are used to seeing slightly oversized golf carts being presented 'as the future' - this nonsense turns most folks off. Even though it cannot be measured, the pioneer electric drag racers have done more than their part to promote EVs.
Disclosure [just in case that it was not clear]:
I have been an EV performance fan and was prejudiced before I read the article.
Where are the revolutionary designs?
TJ McDermott asked:
>EVs seem to be taking a very slow, evolutionary path. Why a single motor in the gas >engine's place? Where are the vehicles with a smaller motor in each wheel hub? >Where is the regenerative braking that these motors could offer? Four motors offers >redundancy; you can still get home on three if one fails.
>Where are the revolutionary designs?
In reference to our racing EVs, wheel motors are a BIG negative! First, they would have to be AC types, thus an expensive ~ 100 kW inverter to go with each hub motor - forgetting all the machining costs, the total redesign of the car, and the terrible unsprung weight this adds (ruins handling), each motor/inverter would cost $25,000 X four - $100,000 for 400 kW of power...Yikes! Compare this to our caveman DC drive that cranks out 538 hp @ 1250 ft. lbs torque for ~ $12,000! Additionally, one of the reasons we drag race our EVs, is to change perception about electric cars. In the ‘Street Legal’ racing classes NEDRA created in conjunction with the NHRA, we require the electric motor(s) to be right where an average car-guy would expect to find the ICE, and we also require the car to be largely unchanged from its factory design. This all does great things for convincing performance-minded car fans that EVs don’t have to be radical or weird to be fun and cool - and that, is what will get them into showrooms!
>The future I saw as a kid should have been here already, but it seems as far away >now as it did then.
Try convincing all my friends who are now driving and loving their Nissan Leafs and Tesla Roadsters this...they all feel they are already driving the future. Ask any of them, and they will tell you they were inspired to buy these electric machines after they experienced our backyard EVs blowing away gas-fueled muscle cars and high end exotica on the track .
One particular reason for not putting a motor in each wheel hub is the resulting increase in un-sprung weight. In general, increases in un-sprung weight reduce the suspension system's natural frequency, which adversely affects the handling characteristics of the vehicle. Offsetting the weight of a hub motor is extremely difficult, so in the end building up a conventional driveline ends up being more cost effective.
I have seen several posst asking why electric vehicles have not become more widespread. I, for one, am EXTREMELY thankful thay have not. Our current electrical grid cannot handle a huge increase in demand that widespread adoption of electric vehicles would require. Not to mention our generation capacity is decreasing as we speak, with the current administration pressuring the coal industry and hindering the nuclear industry. This can only mean one thing as electric vehicles become more commonplace: electricy prices will go up, way up. Will electric vehicles still be attractive when electricy costs twice as much, and you also pay twice as much for your regular household use? What ever happened to hydrogen fuel cells? What about natural gas engines now that we have a massive supply in shale?
Although drag racing is rather a silly use of any automotive technology, especially electric, it does suggest that electric vehicles can make inroads through specialized applications.
Perhaps it is not necessary for an electric car to mimic exactly a gas car. Rather it might do what is already does well. If a family has 2 cars, they could use a very modest, simple electric for short trips and commutes of <50 miles round trip, and keep a gas car (or hybrid) for longer trips.
It is also important to develop charging systems based on clean renewable energy. At present most electric vehicles are in fact just coal-fired steam cars (with the boiler and steam engine at the power station.)
Very well written article, too bad it does not mention the Quickest Electric Dragster on the Planet!! it is the Current Eliminator V that holds the current record of 7.956 seconds at 159.85 miles per hour in the quarter mile!!! See it at http://www.currenteliminator.net/ The record was made using Altairnano Lithium Titanate Batteries. There are many videos on You tube with the Owner Dennis Berube that has held the record since the early 1990's...... The numbers tell the story.
The drag times seem kinda slow! Back in the 1980's, I attended several days of electric vehicle races at Firebird Raceway outside of Phoenix. Most of the teams were high school students. There were a few colleges represented and a couuple pros.
The slowerst quarter mile time was 10.56 seconds. There was a pro, with a car named, White Lightning, who consistently had times of 9 to 10 seconds. There were some electric go carts with lead acid batteries that achieved quarter mile times of 8 1/2 seconds.
Most of the vehicles were not street legal, as those in this article seem to be, but even with new battery technologies, the performance quoted does not appear to be as good as was achieved 25 years ago.
Not to diminish Mr. Wayland's accomplishments with the the White Zombie, but being "street legal" is a lot different from "daily driver". All "street legal" means is that it has lights, a horn and windshield wipers. Last time I saw it, it had only a driver's racing bucket seat and very little else for an interior. It's a one of a kind, purpose-built machine to test and refine high performance electric drivelines, controllers and batteries, not so much for practical transportation. I suspect the only street parts left of that Datsun is the sheet metal. You would expect this of any drag car, just pointing out it's not a typical street car.
It's true that a big part of drag racing is the noise. To hear EV's drag race is not unlike duelling vacuum cleaners. It's more fun when an EV is pitted against a snarling V8, who's noise drowns out the whine of the EV's motor and driveline, and it just silently pulls away as though the guy with the V8 left his parking brake on.
EV's are fun. I put 50K miles on my Chevy S-10 conversion. But the realities of cost of ownership caught up with it and I couldn't justify putting yet another $2500 pack of batteries in it. I understand that contemporary NiMH and Lithium packs in commercial EV's would give much better cycle life, but at a price. A price that in terms of the typical consumer is difficult to justify. Combustion vehicles have had a huge head start in terms of economies of scale and refinement of design, and for the most part you're going to end up with a very reliable and long lasting vehicle. EV's still require maintenance and repairs and when you factor all the operating expenses as a whole (registration, tax, insurance, electricty), in the end any cost savings realized with the cheaper "fuel" are vastly offset by the acquisition cost of the vehicle. Even if the "fuel" were free, my costs per mile in terms of amortized battery expenses was more than the equivalent cost of gasoline for my truck at $4 a gallon. I haven't run the numbers for the current offerings of commercial EV's, but I suspect the numbers for those aren't much better with their commensurately more expensive batteries and management systems. EV's will never enjoy more than a niche market until they can offer a feature or value that current combustion vehicles can't. Granted, things have come a long way since the '60's Electrovair or the '70's Citicar, but EV's of today that are more expensive to own than their gasoline counterparts still aren't the answer. Get the costs down and maybe they'll get there.
If you really like the idea of driving an EV, then that's great. I'm here to tell you they're a fun way to get around. Just understand that this "fun" will cost you extra.
WRT Wayland's EV being a drag car - Do you know how he gets to the drag strip?? He drives. Did you know that the vehicle has been on out of state road trips?? Although not a major feat from Portland, I know that theWZ has been on road trips to WA - I think that I read the details on his web site.
The WZ definitely has a racing bent, but if you have ever seen folks race their street cars, many remove the spare tire and extra seats for racing.
WRT cost effective:
Possibly not. Anyone who buys the first [or makes the first] items is not going to get in on the cost benefits. It is interesting that this 'cost effective thing' comes up a lot with EVs. The irony is that in the US [where I currently reside] it appears that the number of purchases made by americans on a purely cost effective basis is near 0%. This applies to clothing, appliances, houses, automobiles, phones, computers, etc. For example, a friend might purchase an economy car and rule out a 'statistically better automobile' because it is 'ugly'.
Yes, I would agree the EVs are not exactly cost effective - but I do not know anyone who purchased an automobile solely based on numbers.
Not to diminish Mr. Wayland's accomplishments with the the White Zombie, but being "street legal" is a lot different from "daily driver". All "street legal" means is that it has lights, a horn and windshield wipers. Last time I saw it, it had only a driver's racing bucket seat and very little else for an interior. It's a one of a kind, purpose-built machine to test and refine high performance electric drivelines, controllers and batteries, not so much for practical transportation
...............The car has never, ever been without both front seats.. you're posting incorrect information. Datsun 1200s did not come with carpeting - yet the Zombie has full carpets, front and rear. It 'is' in fact, a daily driver, and recently traveled hundreds of miles on trips from Portland to Seattle. It is not 'stripped', other than the back seat no longer fits due to the NHRA required roll bar system. It does not run on slicks, rather, it uses DOT street legal tires. It gets driven to and from the race track where ti soundly spanks many gutted, hollow-shell muscle cars that do have only a driver's seat and have to be trailered to the track.
I do not recall seeing anything written that WZ was faster - only that it was quicker.
I'm sure that Mr. Wayland does not actively follow Bugatti's products. He obviously was using stale data from one of the older, cheaper $1,700,000 models. He probably was not aware of the latest numbers for the new 2011-2012 Bugatti Veyron, with its modest sticker price increase is faster and quicker. Or possibly the WZ is quicker in the 1/8 mile. It really doesn't matter - JW could build a 'fleet of Zombies' for the $,$$$,$$$.$$ of one Veyron
Bugatti Veyron Super Sport: 267 mph, 0-60 in 2.4 secs. Aluminum, Narrow Angle 8 Liter W16 Engine with 1200 hp, base price is $2,400,000.
Of course there is always the caveat that the WZ might be quicker now than when the article was sourced. :-)
In terms of 'acceleration', for street legal cars, it's 0-60 mph that's the comparison point. The Veyron does 0-60 in 2.4 seconds .... the Zombie does it in 1.8 seconds. My quote was "out-accelerates the Veyron" - never said the Zombie was 'faster' ... you made that part up . The Zombie does indeed. out-accelerate the Veyron in the 0-60 contest.
The article talks about drag racing (normally a quarter-mile affair) and quotes only a quarter-mile time. And car nuts ALWAYS look at quarter mile times, not just the 0-60 times. Does the Zombie out-accelerate the Veyron in the quarter mile?
Ed, are you this charming, misleading, and obstinate at home and work when you are wrong?? Or do you reserve it for use only online??
The first post that I saw challenged a nonexistent quote about 'faster'.
The second post has a phrase "car nuts ALWAYS look at quarter mile times, not just the 0-60 times" that clearly "justifies" 0-60 as a "valid" measurement. [I would, however, challenge the use of the word 'ALWAYS'.]
1. We agree that the WZ out accelerates the Veyron 0-60.
2. The exact original quote was "we have acceleration that's better than the Bugatti Veyron".
3. The original purpose of the quote was likely to make the simple point "This used car that has cost a few $K is powered by batteries through electric motors can out accelerate the Veyron that cost $M."
4. No matter how you slice it "The WZ can out accelerate the Veyron".
5. Yes, if you put the 1/4 distance constraint on the rate of change measurement, you can honestly say that you have successfully created a scenario in which the $2,400,000 car can out accelerate the home built, used Datsun. But even then, #4 will still be true - "The WZ can out accelerate the Veyron".
I seldom take myself 100% seriously - life is too short. But I do have this 'anal thing' about publicly published data. I think that the disorder comes from years of dealing with 'requirements issues', 'he said', 'she said', 'that is not what I meant', etc.
I expect to be held accountable for anything that I 'say' publicly.
The Zombie effortlessly posted three nearly identicla 10.2 @ 123 mph 1/4 mile passes - this, with self imposed restrictions on max motor volts and max motor rpm, both of which were hit on all three runs - hence the same ETs and trap speeds. Those limits are now raised, and, a taller 3:25 gear set is going in over the out-going 3:50 ratio. With 1250 ft. lbs. on tap, going 'taller' in gear ratio doesn't seem to hurt the car's incredible 1.33 60 ft., and though we may slow that part down to say, 1.55, the top end will be much more aggressive. We expect the Zombie to be soildy in the 9s in three weeks when we return to the track to find out.
Back in 1968 we were working on the design of an electric dragster that would have a separate motor driving each of the four wheels. We had a source of motors that could deliver about 400HP "for a short time". We also had the battery problem solved, as our plaan was to have two copper strips, one on each side of the track, and use two large pickups. This would satisfy the track operators that the vehicle would lose power if it left the track. The power would have been from a large diesel powered generator parked well behind the pits area. the 4800 volts would drive the four motors in series, 1200 volts each, and around 200 amps. This car would probably have set many new records for any quater-mile car. The project ended when we determined that it was well beyond our financial capabilities. Also, some of the group got drafted. But it certainly would haave been quite a show to run it.
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