Electric Cars Light Up the Drag Strip.The Christmas Tree goes from red to yellow to green. The two cars leap from the line, flashing down the track at eye-peeling speeds. Both cars cross the line, running competitive 11's, but there's something missing. While these cars were able to scorch rubber and fly down the track at break-neck speeds, there's not a hint of gas in the place and you didn't once have to plug your ears.
Welcome to the modern day drag race, where cars don't have to run on gas and the only qualifier is the one you leave on the stopwatch.
It's funny that in the 1990's, the only kind of electric vehicle you'd find at the race track was the golf cart that some guy was using to shuttle himself from his trailer to the track. Nowadays, there's a new breed of drag racer out there: guys who have exchanged gas tanks for kilowatts and fuel gauges for LEDs. They're not running in some futuristic buggy but in cars like a '79 Pinto or a now defunct Datsun. There's even an electric motorcycle that will do a quarter-mile in 7.82 seconds.
John "Plasmaboy" Wayland's White Zombie has covered a quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds.
(Photo courtesy of John Wayland)
One of the key figures in all this is Roderick Wilde. He builds electric cars in his own back yard. They're anything but the boring, electric commuter automobile you're used to. Wilde's cars burn rubber, do wheelie stands and snap axles. Oh, and they've blown the doors off of their share of Vipers, Corvettes and Mustangs along the way.
"If we went much faster, we would've made those Vipers look like they weren't moving," says Wilde. "Those drivers might as well have thrown open their doors and walked."
That's quite a bit of bravado from a guy whose sole source of horsepower comes from a battery, and Wilde isn't alone. According to author Charles Murray in his article for Design News, the National Electronic Drag Racing Association boasts over 100 members with racers taking part in competitions from coast-to-coast and even across the Atlantic. One look at the site and the trash talk contained within would make you think that you're looking at an ordinary drag racing site. That is until they start talking about sucking amps and slamming electric current through their engines.
Another racer who has achieved notoriety for his electric ingenuity is John "Plasma Boy" Wayland. Wayland has pushed his street-legal Datsun (yes, I said Datsun) to an 11.4 second quarter-mile. In fact, the time was so fast that he was literally thrown off the track because his car lacked a roll-cage and he wasn't wearing a fire suit.
"It's a badge of honor," Wayland exclaims, "Everybody wants that moment where you get kicked off the track."
Electric Drag Racers like Wilde and Wayland keep pushing their cars for more, and they are benefiting from new technology. According to Murray, many of these drivers are doing things that even the big car companies have been unable to do... and they're doing it on miniscule budgets.