As I get more and more involved in all this electric car nonsense, I still get tripped up by something I’d never thought of. Noise, the good side of noise that is.
There's a story going around today about the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) starting to open the doors to electric vehicles and electric racing events.
I mentioned on the Twitters that there are people around the globe developing high performance electric racing cars, Dale Vince's 'Nemesis' has that pedigree and aim. I've heard about another one but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. It’s due to be released soon.
The ones in the public domain are things like the Westfield iRacer which is pretty amazing and uses the same powerful YASA motors as the Delto E4 couple I recently featured on ‘Fully Charged.’
There’s the White Zombie, an electric street legal dragster that beats all the street legal cars it goes up against. Then there’s Current Eliminator V, a kind of electric rail dragster which can do the jolly old standing quarter in 7.56 seconds, i.e. zero to 159.85 mph in 7 seconds.
White Zombie (very amateur video)
Current Eliminator V (slightly less amateur video)
These are both experimental vehicles and are improving all the time.
But they don’t, as you will see from the videos, make much noise.
So the prospect of having something like a Grand Prix or Le Man’s race where all the cars are electrically powered fills many people with despair.
If you’ve ever been to a motor racing event, it’s deafening. The reason cars on the roads are so quiet is due to incredibly complex, and power draining noise baffling in the exhaust system. If you want an internal combustion engine to run more efficiently and more powerfully, you remove the silencers, shorten the tail pipe and let that baby roar.
When we had Smax Smith’s top fuel dragster on Scrapheap many years ago, people ran away screaming when he started it up. I held my then 4 year old daughters hand and warned her it could be very noisy. I had to pick her up and run away when they fired it up, she didn’t like it, it was scary. She told me it made the ground shake and she was right. If you stood 15 feet away from that snarling 7.5 litre, 3,500 horse power supercharged V8, you could watch bits of grit bounce across the concrete like peas on a drum. An engine like that has an animal quality, it touches something primal in us, some kind of contained and very dangerous fury.
The most amateur video of the lot
No matter how powerful an electric motor is, it will never elicit the same emotional response.
That said, I think it’s perfectly possible, indeed likely that in the next 5 years we will see electric racing cars that get faster lap times than anything we’ve seen up to now. With ideas on the drawing board for battery replacemtn system, hydraulic jigs that exchange batteries in seconds, battery packs that will take the car further than the fuel tanks take a conventional racer, the electric car will shortly have an unfair advantage.
I also admit that it won’t have the same emotional resonance and there’s no question that racing cars will use internal combustion engines for as long as they can. Motor racing is the apex of the petrol head world, rest assured, there’s no way those men in quilted team jackets with sponsor badges sewn all over them are going to be impressed by a wretched milk float, no matter how fast it goes.