The EV car nerds will soon inherit the earth. From the moment this project started to the moment the car won its class speed record was just three months, which may well be the most impressive compressed racing program I’ve ever born witness to. The EV West and Hickey Speed Electraliner made four runs in two days on the Bonneville salt to go down in history as the fastest E2 class car to ever run.
UPDATE August 14th 5:43 PM ET: The Electraliner was pumped up to full power for a run on Friday morning and put down a run over 240 mph. Averaged with the previous 219 mph run on Thursday, the team has bumped its two-run average record up to 229.363 mph.
The Tesla-powered Electraliner punched the old record—213.0 mph set in 1997—right in the face by putting down a two-run average of 218.2 mph. The car is powered by one of the big Tesla electric motors and a huge array of 294 individual Panasonic batteries. The whole car weighs in at just 2060 pounds, which is a little bit less than the 2200 pound max weight the E2 electric streamliner class mandates.
On Wednesday, after getting the car to pass SCTA tech inspection, the team needed to run a sub-175 MPH run on the short course before they were allowed to graduate to the long course. That morning driver Roger Hickey pushed the car across the line at 169.745 miles per hour to qualify to run on the long course. The team managed to get the batteries swapped out and back out to make an immediate attempt at the record.
For the car’s first run on the long course, the Electraliner was allegedly set to 50 percent of its maximum power output. If we believe EV West on that fact, it’s pretty astonishing that the low power setting produced a speed of about 211 miles per hour. Not quite fast enough to qualify the car for the record, but certainly a proof of concept, and a nice break-in for the driver. He’s already got speed records on street luge and downhill skateboarding, so being cossetted deep in the bowels of a steel tube frame chassis is hardly scary for that guy, right?
In the afternoon the car rolled out with some freshly charged batteries and Mr. Hickey turned up the wick a few percentage points. The gauntlet was thrown down with a 217.562 mph run. That run was more than enough to provisionally break the E2 class record, and the team needed to back it up with a second run the next day.
At Bonneville, when you set a record, you need to put your car in overnight impound. You’re not allowed to do any work to the car, aside from refuel it, or in this case pack it with fresh batteries. If you don’t head to impound, or choose to attempt another run, your prior run is forfeited. While it was in impound, the EV West crew hauled in a new battery array on a portable gantry crane (above video) to swap for fresh electrons.
On Thursday morning the crew got the car out of impound. Impounded cars get the first option to run in the morning before the temperatures get too hot or the salt gets too rutted. As one of the first cars on the salt, the Electraliner backed up its record with an even faster run. While the official time sheets haven’t been posted to the SCTA’s results page yet, and the record won’t technically count until then, reports from the salt confirm that the car ran a 219 mph backup run for a two-run average of 218.2 mph, or 5 mph over the previous record.
Technically there is another day of running on Friday, and the team could put together another run to set an even higher record. As it stands, however, the team has a new record and have joined the prestigious 200 mile per hour club by breaking a record over 200. If the car is indeed running at a very low percentage of its total power output, perhaps they’ll crank up the juice on Friday morning and we’ll be able to see exactly what this car is capable of.
Congratulations to the EV West crew, Hickey Speed, and everyone involved. History is happening every day. The electric revolution continues its incredible march toward motorsport domination, and I am so ecstatic to be alive to see it happening. This is the modern equivalent of the 1950s hot rod movement. Get amped!