The electric powertrain nerds at EV West are doing everything they can to propel Southern California hot rod culture into the future. Electric drivetrain swaps in old cars are their bread and butter, but in the process they’ve realised just how fast these things can be. With a custom tube-chassis, a slippery aerodynamic body, a hopped-up Tesla motor, and a rack of high-tech batteries, these mad scientists are aiming for an electric land speed record.
The E2 class record for electric streamliners between 1100 and 998 kg was set way back in 1997. Ed Rannberg became the first person to drive an EV over 322 km per hour, setting the two-run-average record at 343 km per hour. That car, the Lightning Rod, used extremely heavy flooded lead acid battery technology encapsulated in a proper wheels-inside streamliner.
By comparison, EV West will be able to pack a lot more battery power in their weight class, giving the Electraliner a much more advanced drivetrain. The big difference here will be aerodynamic, as this car will be a wheels-outside lakester streamliner, which comes with its own stability advantages and aero disadvantages.
Michael Bream from EV West is keeping his cards close to his chest on this one. The team won’t let on exactly how much power the Electraliner is making, or how the traction control system works or whatnot.
We do know that the Electraliner will have 294 individual Panasonic battery cells for a total of 357 volts, which sounds like a lot. We know that the team plans to haul a small solar array out to the salt for charging purposes, keeping their three swappable racks of batteries topped up between runs. We know that the plan is to only use the top 50 per cent of each battery pack, as power drops off precipitously after that. And we know that the whole kit and kaboodle will be cooled with 19 l of ice water poured in right before each run.
We have no idea how fast it will go. Presumably the team have a good idea of what their aero and gearing will get them to, but only time will tell.
The outright electric record at Bonneville was set by the Buckeye Bullet back in 2004 with a mega speed of 507 km per hour. That car was much heavier and much more powerful, so I don’t expect this EV West effort to crack that kind of speed, but the 1997 record might be within reach of this three-month-long build project. If they’re successful, Bream has already indicated the team might come back for a shot at the overall EV record in 2021 with a bigger and stronger car.
The future of hot rodding is going to be just fine. Trust me.