Southwest International Raceway (SIR) is no stranger to electric dragsters – in early 2008, Dennis Berube’s Current Eliminator 2 dipped into the 7’s, setting a world record there – but up until Sunday, the 15th of April, 2012, the strip had not witnessed a gathering of EV Drag Racers.
The Bookmans Spring Thaw 2012 EV Drags was sponsored by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, a local business who’s Grant Rd. store in Tucson, Arizona, boasts EV charging points and a sizable solar array. Originally scheduled for Saturday the 14th, rainy weather pushed things to the following Sunday. The forecasted rain arrived late and wouldn’t leave, and by 11am track officials had to make the tough choice to postpone.
Rescheduled for Sunday, the event now became a mix-in with the regular sportsman championship and test ‘n’ tuners, which led to the obligatory gas vs. electric lineups… and deep down inside, that’s really what everyone wanted to see, right?
The list of attendees was all-inclusive, with NEDRA (National Electric Drag Racing Association) record-setting vehicles and drivers aplenty;
|Bob Boyd||Smokescreen||11.083 @ 119.91 mph|
|Scotty Pollacheck||KillaCycle||7.864 @ 169 mph|
|John Wayland||White Zombie||10.258 @ 123.79 mph|
|Jeff Disinger||Predator||8.6 @ 143.95 mph|
|John Metric||DC Plasma||10.677 @ 124.77 mph|
|Dave Delman||DeLorean E-Flux||10.235 @ 65.85 (1/8mi)|
|Brian Hall||Tron Cycle||10.882 @ 123.22 mph|
|Lowell Simmons||Porsche Black Pearl||11.319 @ 118.34 mph|
Racing started with Junior drags and the Sportsmans competition. The first EV to run was Killacycle, a record-setting 7.864sec machine. It’s fantastic to watch plumes of smoke from an EV burn out and hear almost nothing but squeeling rubber, both bikes and cars did not disappoint. The bikes look positively violent to ride, riders are literally hanging on for dear life.
A large portion of my day was spent in the pits studying a couple of awesome machines, namely White Zombie and DC Plasma. Owing to the rescheduling of the event the Zombie had a driver change as Tim Brehn had to leave town. Bob Oldfather, CEO of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, event sponsor, was drafted by owner John Wayland into the driving seat.
Bobs first run in the Zombie – a 10.85sec run down the quarter mile – impressed John, and the car got quicker as settings where tweaked and amperages increased by an enthusiastic Otmar Ebenhoech ready with his iPad, plugging into the Zilla controller.
DC Plasma, a converted Pontiac Fiero, gave a couple very impressive burnouts, but was dogged by one of the motors ceasing power on one run, likely due to the all season tires being run, according to John Metric.
A real great performance for the day came from Shawn Lawless and his Lawless Industries team, running their bike, Predator. The bike crept from the mid-eights to 7.90 and then a final time of 7.84secs, smashing its previous 8.6-second record.
Heading out for its forth run of the day, Zombie developed a problem. Stuttering at the wheels was initially thought to be a busted rear end due to a hearty burnout. The issue was actually traced to a ground fault leaking current through the motor housing to the chassis due to brush dust build up, playing havoc with the controller. An air compressor was called for and was used, in conjunction with a surprisingly effective leaf blower, to banish excess dust.
The fault vanished and it seemed as though Zombie was good to go. Alas, the issue returned in the staging lanes, and the Zombie pitted. In true racing spirit, John Wayland quickly had the Zombie jacked up and the rear wheels loaned to another racer, Rich Rudman. The Zombie’s sticky rubber was fitted to Rudman’s E-Stang which went on to take 6/10sec off its next run.
Charging all these EVs in the pits presented a problem for race organizers, one which was solved by a very large diesel generator I would estimate to be at least 50KW. Many teams even had their own gensets. In the opinion of some, this might seem antithetical to the idea of racing clean machines, which in a sense it is but… Without factoring in wildly varying charging losses, a diesel generator running at a constant load below peak can have very high thermal efficiency, probably a lot higher than 6-7 high octane V8s
Team Zombie had an impressive solution to trackside charging, a 70KWh dump pack which was towed to Tucson from Washington state, where it was charged using the local grid with energy derived from hydro-electric power. Thats right, those Columbia River generators where pushing the Zombie on its 10-second runs in the desert.
One day (it may happen), it would be nice to see a 50-60KW photo-voltaic (PV, solar) system next to a drag strip. Hey, if it happens anywhere, it should happen in Tucson or Phoenix first right? Imagine hooking up to the sun between runs [instead of making a run for more E-85 or expensive race fuel – Ed.]!
Another couple of my favourite EVs where Chris Harriman’s Miata, which ran consistently and was often paired with Dave Delmen’s E-Flux DeLorean. There is nothing cooler than an electric DeLorean. I’m sure this was how the car should have been driven off the showroom floor originally, with electrons!
DC plasma, which ran into traction issues (the remnants of which can be seen on the rear bumper!), sports some serious electrical hardware (as did all the EV racers in attendance). Here’s a couple more pictures of this fiery little, mid-motor EV. Keep in mind, this might have started out the Fiero you could buy for a couple hundred bucks in the local Craigslist, but it’s now much more.
How much more? A quick Google by the editor reveals the Zilla 2K controller is capable of handling 640,000 watts, and retails for approximately US$4,600 (from Manzanita Micro). The NetGain TransWarP 9 motor is only about 9″ (23cm) wide/tall x 24″ (61cm) long, pushes this Fiero to 10-second E.T.s in the quarter-mile, and retails for US$2,300. DC Plasma runs TWO of EACH of these things. That’s US$14,000 before you start counting batteries, wiring, and the rest. The folks building electric race cars take their hobby just as serious as any other gearheads out there.
This was a brilliant day for local EV enthusiasts, thanks to the local Tucson Electric Vehicle Association 2 (TEVA2), Bookmans, and NEDRA. Also, a big thanks to SIR for accommodating an unplanned weather-forced schedule change.
- What similarities do you see between EV drag racing and conventional drag racing?
- What do you think of the obstacles overcome to run these times on battery power?