RTOD 17JUL2008: Electric Go-Cart Beats Ferrari

RTOD: Electric Go-Cart Beats Ferrari

The actual complaint is after some reading, so bear with it. 

Ah, more cars.  I love cars.  You all know that.  Today, I was on the website Treehugger.com, and it took me to an interesting story.  “Electric Cars Take Over” was the headline.  It shows a total of 17 cars that “You Must Know About.”  The first two were the Tesla models, surprise, surprise.  It seems that it’s okay to be green and fast, just don’t have to necessarily follow all NHSTA standards for safety because it is too expensive for them to meet the same standards and still be profitable.  I’m sorry, but if being “green” means being less safe, then why don’t we turn down ALL of the safety regulations on ALL cars?  The lighter the car, the less power needed to move it, the better fuel economy it gets!  Also, the more aerodynamic, the better, but that’s another topic. 

Next is a Chinese-made car.  Now, I’m all for a free market, but GM already got into a brawl over the Chery brand, and won.  I don’t see too many Chinese-made cars being needed.  The market is already over-saturated with different makes and models, do we need another one in it?  After all, didn’t Korea and Vietnam send their stuff over just to be shut down shortly after, with the notable exception of Kia?  The only chance they would have would be the electric car, and even that market, before it’s really here, is looking saturated!

Next, the parade of micro-machines began.  Seven machines that were being touted will fit in the mini-compact to sub-compact range.  One of them was so skinny that it will fit in a half-lane!  If I’m going to be in/on something that will fit 2-3 abreast in a lane, I’d rather have two wheels and no cage with it!  I understand that I was just saying to lower the safety standards to make cars lighter, but come on!  Yay! They are re-selling Geo/Chevy Metros and early-edition Civics with electric motors in them!  I think no thanks.  If I’m in a car, I want to be able to stretch and NOT touch the passenger window.  (I luvz my GP!)  One of those “cars” was even marked as a “low-speed” vehicle, perfect for people who live in areas with speed limits of 25MPH.  That’s wonderful!  I’m glad to know that when I live in a retirement community and never have to leave it that I can drive an electric car!  Too bad it’s not going to get me anywhere I was going!

Next, the “to be announced in 20XX” cars.  I’m sorry, but if you aren’t gonna announce it, even if it’s just a prototype, or computer generated models, or if you haven’t come up with a name for it yet, I don’t wanna know about it.  It can’t be a car until it has had some actual design and prep time.  Just saying that I want to put out an electric car does NOT qualify me to say that it is a car you must know about!  I mean, the Chevy Volt has design prototypes available to drive around, and it WASN’T MENTIONED!  Because it’s from GM it’s not worthy?  Wait, I know, it’s because it wasn’t electric only, right?  I mean, who wants a car that will extend its own electrically-driven range, right?  Far be it for me to actually wanna drive my car to, well, anywhere not in town. 

Okay, in reality, there was one car on there that I was willing to respect.  It was the Saturn SL1 Electric conversion.  It shows that the electric car doesn’t have to be a Yaris-looking blob to be electric.  I was happy to see that someone is trying to prove that any real car can be electric, without being stupid-looking.

Now, to the point of my rant. 

On of the “cars” was the Wrightspeed X1.  This go-cart-turned-car is a tube-chassis with an aerodynamic cone, bigger tires, turn signals and other street-legal necessities, a functional suspension, and two seats.  This go-cart is the same thing as the Ariel Atom, which is the same thing, but with a Honda K20 iV-TEC 4-cyl. engine.  It has already been proven to outrun the Ferrari and the Porsche that they drag against, and it outruns a motorcycle on a closed course.  It is SUCH a direct rip-off of the Atom that they didn’t even remove the air-scoop!  Now, first off, yes, it did actually manage to out-accellerate the high-end exotics.  And yes, it did manage to outrun a sportbike on the track.  However, when you are the weight of a motorcycle, running a high-output ANY KIND OF MOTOR, with the stability of four wheels, you WILL outrun ANYTHING!  Congrats, you proved that power-to-weight thing is still definitely in effect.  Also, please, PLEASE prove that the car in that video is electric!  What, because it doesn’t have exhaust pipes out the back it’s not gas?  Please.  They didn’t show its power plant.  In fact, they didn’t show much of anything, except a car that looked like the Ariel Atom TO THE T, but claimed to be something else.  I’m not saying it is the Atom, but there is no proof otherwise, other that someone saying that it is.  Also, it could be the electric car that it claimed.  My only concern: they didn’t prove it, and to call it a car is almost an insult to cars.  It weighs as much as two fully-clad GSX-R 1000’s, but has a motor with 3X the torque?  Also, no roof, no body, nothing.  Hey, can I race a suped-up go-cart against a bunch of CARS and win?  Maybe!  Maybe strip the Ferrari to a tube-frame with the same engine, with two seats, a nose-cone, call it a car, and race it then?  The car won’t move, though.  Too busy spinning its tires…  Hmm…  

The actual issue I have is the idea that showing a “car” with virtually no weight in reference to a car, racing a full-bodied, safety-OK’d car, is NOT proving anything. As I said, it simply compares the idea that a vehicle that weighs less will be able to put more of its power to the road in the form of acceleration, whereas a heavier car must use that same energy to push it to begin with. There was an electric car released before, called the EV-1. It was made by GM, as I’m sure any of you who read these already know. They did a real comparison test, where they drag raced it against cars of similar weight and size. The EV-1 outran them easily. THAT is a real comparison. In the video, they even specifically announce the weight of the vehicles they were comparing, and the weight was greater by a ratio of 2-1! The EV-1, however, was slightly heavier than the cars it was dragging, it outran them. Now THAT is a way to prove something. Even Mythbusters do a better job of showing electric versus gas, by making two identical go-carts, and racing each other. The electric go-cart was heavier and had a lower top speed because of it, but accelerated much faster, and handled better because of a lower center of gravity.

In closing, I know that the green crowd and the electric performance crowd truly want to show that the electric car is a viable alternative to gasoline. In fact, there really is no longer a need to prove it. It is now understood that the electric car can hold its own. More people are seeing it being the replacement in the future, once its range is improved, with the ability to quickly and easily replenish its charge. However, I must stress that if you want to prove your superiority, at least do it amongst an even crowd, weight, safety standards, and a full body!

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