The Kleenspeed EV-X11 electric car being developed in Silicon Valley has sped into the record books with a top speed over 200km/h at California's Sonoma raceway while setting a lap record for an electric car.
The all-electric race car made the run last week when it got around the 4km track in 1 minute 35.99 seconds. That works out to an average speed of just over 150km/h and the car hit a top speed of about 210km/h.
"It's pretty good," said Kevin Mitz, who was behind the wheel of the car. "The same cars we run with a gas engine, 1 litre gas engines, motorcycle engines, they are about 400 pounds lighter than this one so we're at a disadvantage with the weight, but we're only about three to four seconds slower on your average comparable car to this."
The car is the product of five years work for Kleenspeed, said Timothy Collins, president, CEO and founder of the company, which is based at the NASA Ames Research Park in the heart of Silicon Valley.
"The first car we developed we tested in secret at a racetrack in Nevada over four years ago," he said. "Then we bought another car and then we bought this car and we converted it. So each car had a different system and from each car we learned about the stresses. We do have another car on the drawing board."
Like Formula One teams, Kleenspeed is using the racing car as a test bed for technology it hopes will be useful in more mainstream vehicles.
"Once you develop a race car system, you can migrate those into the passenger cars," Collins said. "We actually have a passenger car coming out in October, not for sale, it's a test vehicle with a 150-mile battery pack in it and a completely new system. It incorporates all of the technology we have developed to date."
The electric race car uses the same lithium-ion battery technology that's familiar to many people from their electronics gadgets. Passenger electric cars like those from Nissan and Ford also use lithium-ion batteries, but while passenger cars can pack enough to have a useful range, in race cars that is still a problem.
The amount of energy that can be stored in the battery means the car is only capable of a seven or eight laps before it's out of power.
But Collins is confident that will keep improving.
"Next year nine laps, the year after 10 or 11 laps. Every year the energy density of the lithium cells will be greater," he said.
Despite the short range, the electric car can be compared favourably to conventional race cars in some areas, Mitz, the driver, said.
"The torque and the power is instantaneous and that's what we want. When you step on the throttle, in one of these it's like stepping on the throttle in a drag car. Just seat of the pants throttle acceleration and you have to control the throttle pedal and the wheel spin and that's where it gets difficult," he said.