Electric Drag Racing
Without a doubt electric vehicles are making quite an impression. The Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Volt are changing how we think about cars. But for some car-lovers, the environmental plus of going gasoline-free is just the tip of the tachometer. As Roger Mecca found out, these electrified enthusiasts may not be burning any petrol, but they have no problem burning rubber.
ROGER MECCA: Go to any autocross event anywhere in the country and this is a pretty common sight. Cars flying across the pavement, going really fast. But the different thing about this event, all electric or hybrid vehicles. But, that doesn’t mean they are any slower.
CHIP GRIBBEN: There’s a misconception with some folks that “Oh that EV”, an EV is slow, but you know with these cars today, I mean we can, most of our EVs are faster than most production cars off the line.
ROGER MECCA: In 1999, Chip Gribben and some of his E-V devotees decided it was time to take their electric vehicle creations out of the garage and onto the drag strip. They started ‘POWER OF D-C’, a title promoting the electric power theme and the events proximity to our nation’s capital. 11 years later, these hobbyists are doing more than just seeing who has the fastest ride, they’re helping shape the E-V cars of tomorrow.
CHIP GRIBBEN: A lot of the auto companies have already learned from what we’re doing, like Tesla and Nissan is aware of what some of our national electric drag racing association members are doing with their cars.
And they can’t help but pay attention to what we’re doing.
ROGER MECCA: Throughout the day, it became obvious there is NO lack of speed or performance when it comes to EVs no matter who makes them. So as any good automotive reporter worth his weight in petroleum should do, I took out the champ of production EVs, the Tesla Roadster, to see just how quick they really. So was it fast? See for yourself. The performance of this all-electric exotic is so impressive; David gave up his traditional sports car for a Tesla several years ago and hasn’t looked in his rear-view since.
DAVID BOLLING: Its just really thrilling, you’ve got all that power available whenever you want, there’s no transmission, it’s just direct drive, so whenever you wanna have that acceleration you’ve got it.
ROGER MECCA: While David purchased a new E-V right off the showroom floor, most owners convert traditional gas-powered sports cars themselves. A quick look around reveals Pontiacs, Mazdas, and a stainless steel classic that in addition to having an all-electric motor, comes complete with a flux capacitor.
DAVE DELMAN: In terms of speed it certainly accelerates a lot faster than our stock DeLorean and top speed, well, are there any police around. I’ve had it over 88mph, let’s put it that way.
ROGER MECCA: In 2007, Dave Delman and co-builder Tom Neiland, began work on what has officially become the World's Fastest-Longest Range Electric DeLorean. Working non-stop for months on end, Dave was able to turn a $6,000 car with a blown engine, into a show-stopping, eye popping EV. And while he admits he can’t take Marty McFly back in time just yet, he’s proud to say his electrical upgrades have made a dramatic improvement over the original ’83 coupe’s performance.
DAVE DELMAN: The first electric cars are made back in the late 1800’s, we’re now in 2011 and this car is really going back to the future.
ROGER MECCA: Now while this is a great opportunity for enthusiasts to come together and race against themselves and of course each other. It’s also a wonderful learning exercise. And the proof can be found in West Wilkes High School in North Carolina. Frustrated with traditional teaching methods, teacher Chris Tolbert let his 50 students at West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek, North Carolina choose 1 project to get them interested in learning again. They decided converting a 2000 Mazda Miata from gas to electric was the way to make it happen.
CHRIS TOLBERT: If you can find some common ground between you and the student, then you can make that communication with them. And this particular program has done that.
ETHAN WOODIE: I’ve liked it. Most of the time I stay after school, help work on the car and everything, get it together and then going to races and driving it, I like that, it’s fun.
CHIP GRIBBEN: These are the kids that are gonna be working for these large companies on these technologies.
ROGER MECCA: Whether the next generation of E-V’s comes from a major corporation, or a high school student from North Carolina, many believe the success depends on the amount of fun the driver has, not just how many gallons of gas they may save. But if there’s one thing these HI-voltage fanatics have proven, it’s that thrills and chills are only an extension cord away.