UK company Drayson Racing Technologies has broken the world land speed record for a lightweight electric car. The record, which had stood for almost forty years, was broken in a modified Lola B12 69/EV vehicle which hit a top speed of 204.2mph (328.6km/h) at a racetrack at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire, England.
Lord Drayson and the Drayson B12 69/EV Le Mans prototype race car. © Drayson Racing.
Drayson Racing Technologies Chief executive, Lord Drayson, who was driving for the succesful record attempt, said the achievement was designed to highlight the potential of electronic vehicle technology.
The previous record of 175mph record was set in 1974 by by Battery Box General Electric.
Drayson Racing are not the only electric vehicle-maker using motorsport to accelerate adoption of the technology ionto mainstream vehicle production.
Last week Japanese manufactirer, Nissan, unveiled its Zeod RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car), which can switch between electric and petrol power.
Nissan intends to enter the vehicle into next year's Le Mans 24 hour race saying the competition would act as a challenging test bed for technologies that could eventually find their way into road cars.
Recycled Carbon Fibre Monocoque Chassis
Drayson Racing was founded in 2007 by self-declared car nut Paul Drayson, who was, Minister of Science in the Labour government of the time.
The firm, based in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, works with other companies to develop sustainable automotive technologies and uses motorsport competitions as a means to focus and advertise its efforts.
In order to qualify for an attempt on the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile's (FIA) world electric land speed record Drason Racing had to make its vehicle weigh less than 1,000kg (2,204lb) without the driver.
To do this it adapted the Lola B12 Le Mans Series race car it had previously designed and which originally had a bio-ethanol fueled engine and replaced the power plant with a lightweight 20 kilowatt hour battery and electric motor delivering 850 horsepower.
It also adapted the Lola's chassis, which is made out of recycled carbon fibre, to reduce air friction at speed.
Shortly after his record-breaking time was confirmed Lord Drayson said:
What it, I hope, shows to people is just what the future potential of electric cars is.
Obviously this is a very special racing car, but by setting this new world record here in Britain we say two things.
One it is a pointer to the future – the technology that we developed for this car will filter down to the cars we use every day.
And secondly it's a message about how here in the UK we're a world leader with this technology. We've led motorsport engineering, now we're also leading with electric motorsport engineering.
Google's chairman Eric Schmidt, a supporter of innovative technology, spent two hours at the race track watching practice runs but was not able to stay to witness the record breaking drive.
Lord Drayson added:
Google has a very active R&D programme with regard to electric vehicle technology so it's great that one of the world's leading technology companies came to our event today.
It was lovely meeting him.
FIA Formula E Race Series
Drayson Racing's attention will now focus on the launch of the FIA's Formula E racing championship, which is due to begin in September 2014.
London will host the first Formula E Championship electric car race, with Bangkok, Putrajaya, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro also on the calendar for the inaugural series.
A different vehicle, similar to a Formula One race car is being developed for Drayson by Singapore's Spark and Surrey-based McLaren racing for the first year of the Formula E competition.
Drayson Racing plans to build its own race car for the 2015 Formula E competition using some of the same components used in the record breaking Lola B12 69/EV.
One analyst said such such efforts were an excellent way to promote electric cars, but questions remain as to how much of the technology being developed would eventualy find its way into mainstream cars on the road.
Nissan showed off its own "zero emission" racing car with which it plans to compete from 2014
Paul Newton, auto analyst at IHS Global Insight sums up.
I think that any kind of competition-led design will have spin-offs – it might be that electric motors become more efficient.
The problem is that making an electric car go faster is relatively straightforward. Making it go further and become more practical is infinitely more difficult, and that's down to the basic physics of how batteries store energy and release it.