Figure 1: Mel Brooks’ 1987 movie Spaceballs introduced the
world to “Ludicrous Speed,” an inspiration for Tesla more than
two decades later. (Image Source: Pinterest)
Pure electric vehicles (also called battery electric vehicles, or BEVs) are becoming less of a rarity on
the streets. Cumulative global sales of highway-capable
battery electric cars and vans passed one million units in
September 2016. The Nissan Leaf is the world leader
with sales of more than 250,000 units: Tesla’s Model S is
next, with over 158,000 sales.
Although BEV owners list saving on fuel costs and
reducing environmental impact as their top reasons for
buying (and “range anxiety” as their primary concern),
that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a little “oomph”
when the occasion calls for it: Tesla’s Model S P100D
with Ludicrous Mode is one of the fastest accelerating
production cars ever made, with a 0-60 mph time of
2. 28 seconds. Even Tesla’s Model X P100D SUV with
Ludicrous Mode can blast through the 60 mph mark in
2. 9 seconds.
“Ludicrous Mode” is an upgrade of “Insane Mode,” and
is achieved by modifying the battery pack to increase its
available power from 1,300 to 1,500 amps. Tesla’s CEO
Elon Musk has said an enhanced “Maximum Plaid Mode”
is in the works for the next-generation Roadster.
Taking advantage of this high performance, an all-Tesla
race series is in the works: the Electric GT Championship
will begin a ten-race series in November, and continue
into 2018. The vehicles are all modified Tesla Model
S P100Ds that are capable of doing 0-62 mph (0-100
km/h) in 2.1 seconds, up to 0.3 seconds quicker than the
Tesla is the most visible performance BEV company,
but other BEVs are expanding into a range of motorsport
fields: competing and setting records in many areas
that were once the exclusive domain of conventionally-powered vehicles.
Let’s take a look at some of these other efforts,
beginning with a detailed look at the world’s fastest
Figure 2: Boasting 3000 hp, the VBB- 3 is the world’s fastest
electric vehicle. (Image Source: gmotors.co.uk)
In September 2016, at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, the
Venturi Buckeye Bullet- 3 (VBB- 3) broke the land speed
record for EVs with a two-way average speed of 341
mph. The vehicle was developed and built by a team of
engineers from The Ohio State University together with
Monaco-based Venturi Automobiles.
What does it take to put together the world’s fastest
BEV? A combination of race-tested components, custom
development, and a little inspired repurposing. Figure 3
shows an exploded diagram of the internal components.
Motor: Venturi supplies the VBB- 3 with two AC
induction motors that together output 3,000 horsepower
(1,119 k W) and 2,065 lb-ft ( 2,800 Nm) of torque: there
is one motor for the front and rear sets of wheels. The
company is involved in both motorsports and commercial
EV activities, and operates a racing team in the current
Formula-E series, discussed below.
EV Technology and The Search
for (Even More) Ludicrous