Tesla likes to make a lot of claims about the performance of vehicles that don’t exist yet, and promises the upcoming Tesla Roadster can go from zero to 97 km per hour in just 1.9 secs, and possibly even faster if you drink the Musk Kool-Aid. But for far less than $US200,000 ($256,520), a YouTuber has built an RC electric car that can out-accelerate Tesla’s best offering.
For the past few months, YouTube’s Engineering After Hours has been perfecting a design for a remote control car that uses a pair of electric jet fans to create a vacuum underneath that literally pulls the vehicle to the ground, increasing traction and dramatically improving its acceleration. It may seem like an unorthodox approach to speed, but back in 1978, Gordon Murray, the famed car designer responsible for the iconic McLaren F1, helped create the Brabham BT46 “fan car” which did the exact same thing, winning the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix before being withdrawn from the competition.
Engineering After Hours’ fan car isn’t as elaborate or expensive as Murray’s F1 entry, but it does represent months of design and redesign because even just getting an RC car to hit 97 km per hour is no easy feat. At that speed its tiny two-inch wheels have to spin at over 5,000 revolutions per minute, requiring powerful electric motors and reinforced components. But at those RPMs, even rubber tires have a tendency to lose grip and slip, so in addition to adding traction compound to each wheel to improve their stickiness, the use of electric jet fans increases the downforce, giving the tiny car an impressive 9 kg of traction force off the line.
Even with the fan car’s well-honed design, there were still unexpected surprises and challenges during its acceleration testing, including strong components simply being sheared off due to the high G-forces being experienced. But eventually, with some special tuning of the electric motors to increase the power at launch, the RC car was able to accelerate to 97 km per hour in just 1.73 seconds.
That easily outperforms a Tesla Roadster, but the fan car’s creators believe that 0-60 time can be shaved down even further, as the vehicle inexplicably experiences some shaking at launch, hindering its ability to properly accelerate for the first few moments. Once the cause is determined and remedied, it should be able to accelerate even faster, although at some point it’s going to be so fast that putting a human operator at the remote control might not be the best idea.