A dragster with electric performance

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

John Wayland’s electric car isn’t some sedate runabout, but a racer capable of 0-60mph in 1.8 seconds

Electric-powered vehicles have their critics. For many people, they’re just not powerful enough. In order for manufacturers to make the cars affordable and cover a reasonable mileage in between charges, power is usually kept to a certain level.

John Wayland has gone some way to proving that electric cars can “blow the doors off” their petrol-powered cousins, however. Wayland built his first electric car – a converted 1972 Datsun 1200 – in 1980 and has been at it ever since. His most recent electric project is called the White Zombie (driven by Tim Brehm) and, like his first foray into the world of electric cars, it is based on a ’72 Datsun.

This isn’t just any electric eco-hatch, though. This is a fully-fledged dragster that is capable of doing 0-60mph in a staggering 1.8 seconds and the standing quarter mile in 10.2sec at 123mph.

“It’s not been easy to make it that fast,” Wayland tells me. “There are two aspects of electric power – energy density is how far you can go on a charge and power density is how fast you can go. We knew we were building a dragster so we could concentrate on the power. We got rid of a big obstacle right away.”

Even without focusing on energy density, John can still drive to his local drag strip 16 miles away, race the car all night and then drive home without going anywhere near a plug.

“It’s taken many years of hot-rodding to get the technology to work, because when we started we only had a 24-volt motor and we were trying to put 300 volts into it. It didn’t like that at all and it got real pissed off.” Years spent fettling the design – and the current specification (right) of a 330-volt motor, a 2000-amp controller and 355-volt battery pack – mean that the car now regularly beats its petrol-powered equivalents.

However, it’s still not that easy to race an electric dragster. “I’m a founding member of the NEDRA [National Electric Drag Racing Association] in America,” says Wayland. “Before the NHRA [National Hot Rod Association] adopted the rules we drew up in 1999 they had no classes for us. In fact, they wouldn’t even let us race because they thought we were dangerous. There they were running liquid fuel that can melt city blocks and they were worried about our batteries!

“We still don’t have classes, but we do now have voltage divisions. What I really like doing is the ‘heads up’ racing, which means you compete against whoever draws up to the line next to you. We go down there with the electric cars and everybody will say ‘what’s that electric piece of crap?’. Then we blow their doors off in front of all their friends. When we do, we say ‘you just got beaten by the future’.”

The future? “Absolutely. Electric dragsters really are the future and I’m sure we’re going to take almost all the records away from the normal machines. We’ve got a long way to go in the [most powerful] Top Fuel category, but if you look at the motorcycle classes, the fastest bikes are running six-second quarter miles. There are some running nitromethane in the fives, but we’re already approaching the sixes with electric bikes.

“Yes, the battery packs are heavy,” adds Wayland. “A lead acid battery pack used to weigh 400kg, but you can now get a lithium one that only weighs 68kg and which gives you 800bhp. Our motors are only 68kg, and when you compare that to a 230kg engine it’s not actually too bad.” With standard bodywork, windscreen and windows Wayland’s Datsun weighs in at 1065kg. That’s only 200kg heavier than our MGB racer, and that certainly doesn’t do 0-60mph in 1.8sec.

Whether electric dragsters are the future or not, you have to admit that Wayland is making a convincing case for them.