An Electric Dragster Has Finally Broken the 200-MPH Barrier
Steve Huff is the new speed king of electric dragstersby Michael Fira, on LISTEN 05:56
Electric cars are the future or, at the very least, part of the future, whether we like it or not, so all of us at TopSpeed get properly excited when we hear of an EV that managed to break any sort of speed or acceleration record because, let’s face it, that’s way cooler than hearing about which EV can boast with a 400-mile range.
Now, the talk of the town is Current Technology’s insane 1,950 horsepower electric dragster, the first of its kind to surpass the 200 mph barrier.
Mind-boggling top speeds have never been an EV’s asset
Some 33 years ago, Ferrari claimed its twin-turbocharged supercar, the ultra-light and ultra-scary F40, built to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary and scare the living bejesus out of anyone daring enough to push it hard enough, was capable of reaching and surpassing 200 mph. In doing so, the F40 became the fastest production car in the world, its official top speed as quoted by Ferrari being 201 mph. Independent reporters, be it from Europe or the States, could never get an F40 to travel at a speed that starts with ’2’ but, over time, the story remained of how the F40 is the first car with a +200 mph top speed.
The first motor car to ever go above and beyond this psychological barrier was Sir Henry Seagrave's 970-horsepower Sunbeam that, on the 29th of March 1927, achieved 203.792 mph over a two-way average at Daytona Beach, Florida.
The decades that followed saw ordinary production cars going quicker and quicker, like Ferrari’s very own 365 GTB/4 supposedly able to reach 173 mph in 1968. It took almost two more decades for automakers to find the final elusive 20 mph and the first car that did so in the hands of a magazine was Alois Ruf’s legendary Porsche-based CTR ’Yellowbird’ that effortlessly blitzed to 211 mph the year that the F40 was launched. Sure, since RUF was only considered a proper auto manufacturer in its native Germany, not many gave the CTR the credit it was due in spite of it going 2 mph quicker in 1988 during an Auto Motor und Sport test at Nardo.
So, while going 200 mph isn't something particularly special nowadays when even sporty sedans can pull it off with minimal fuss, it once used to be something really big and it remains something really big in the world of EVs
Known for their massive amounts of instantaneous torque and ludicrous power figures, electric cars have always struggled to reach top speed that would rival the best that internal combustion’s got to offer. Take the Pininfarina Battista, a 1,900 horsepower electric hypercar widely considered to be amongst the fastest of the bunch. With so much oomph and about 1,700 pound-feet of torque, a Battista could, theoretically, go from naught to 60 mph in two seconds and from naught to 186 mph in 12 seconds. To put it into context, a Mitsubishi Mirage needs more time to reach 60 mph than a Battista does to get to 186 mph. However, that’s where things get tricky for the Battista because, no matter what, the Battista won’t do more than 217 mph flat out.
That’s 17 mph over the much-lamented 200 mph benchmark but think about it, the modified Chiron that was able to hit 304.77 mph on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany did so with under 1,600 horsepower at its disposal. And 304.77 mph is over 50 mph more than the Battista...
It is, then, no wonder that people got ecstatic when news came of a purpose-built dragster that completed a +200 mph pass. Those familiar with electric dragsters are probably aware that it was drag racing legend Don ’Big Daddy’ Garlits that set the previous speed record in an electric dragster in the quarter-mile. The then-87-year-old completed a 7.235-second run which, in itself, was a world record too and, since the trap speed at the end of the run was 189.04 mph, Garlits walked away with two more records in his very crowded pocket.
But now Garlits is no longer the fastest guy in an electric dragster. The name of the new speed king is drag enthusiast Steve Huff who set a trap speed of 201 mph at the Tucson Dragway in Arizona. With 1,950 horsepower and 1,100 pound-feet of torque, the output figures of Huff’s dragster - powered by a brushless A/C motor and 800-volt system - are comparable to the Battista but the dragster is way, way lighter and boasts those ultra-sticky drag racing slicks.
While Huff managed to outdo Garlits in the top speed department, his 7.52-second run was some three tenths slower than what Garlits could muster but Huff has many reasons to be happy, especially since it wasn’t all plain sailing as Cycle Drag reports. "The test session got off to an inauspicious start as fault codes and gremlins surfaced in the new combination that had to be worked out." The ’new combination’ refers to Huff’s team’s decision to switch to a chain-driven set up from the previous clutch/jackshaft/belt-driven combination.
Sure, the world’s fastest dragsters can easily surpass 330 mph and do sub-4-second runs, Huff’s efforts prove that there’s potential for EVs at the drag strip away from the impressive launches and neck-bending initial acceleration.