A STREAMLINED electric vehicle nicknamed “Little Giant”, run by Team Vesco 444 reVolt Systems, has taken the new national electric vehicle speed record in the United States with two recorded runs at an average speed of 335mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.
Although its average speed was 12mph faster than the current world record holder — the “Buckeye Bullet 3”, which has held the record since 2016 — because Little Giant’s two runs were not completed within 60 minutes of each other as per the rules it was not able to take the official record for the world’s fastest electric vehicle, instead having to settle for a national title.
Speaking following the attempt, Little Giant’s driver Eric Ritter said: “What an incredible ride! The torque off the starting line — it’s a monster, it bolts without hesitation and keeps pulling, non-stop. Our time slips tell the story, with the 357mph top speed, that 400 is now a reality, no longer just a dream.”
That’s a clear indication from Team Vesco that neither they nor Little Giant are done with the attempt to claim the world land speed record for an electric vehicle.
On September 30, Little Giant managed to hit 322mph, taking the national electric E3 record, but the next day it broke its own record with the each-way-averaged run of 335mph.
To recharge the vehicle’s batteries after each run, the team used its own solar power plant in the form of a trailer bedecked in photovoltaic panels. They were not, however, able to supply Little Giant’s batteries with enough power to make the return run within the 60 minutes demanded by FIA regulations, which would have seen it take the world record. Two-way averaged runs are needed to account for discrepancies in elements such as wind direction and slope.
Although Team Vesco hasn’t revealed much about either Little Giant’s battery packs or the power output of its motors, it is known to use 1,152 prismatic lithium-ion batteries powering a pair of heavily-modified Tesla motors.
Vesco has form when it comes to speed records, currently holding the title of world’s fastest wheel-driven vehicle with the turbine-powered Vesco Turbinator II. It achieved a speed of 463mph in 2018. The team’s late founder, Don Vesco, was himself a record-breaker with streamlined motorcycles in the 1970s, becoming the first person to ride a motorcycle at over 250mph. He also drove Turbinator I which, in 2001, became the world’s fastest wheel-driven vehicle.
Most of Vesco’s experience lies with liquid fuel-powered vehicles so the team turned to California-based electric vehicle specialists reVolt Systems to piece together Little Giant’s powertrain. The company’s main challenge was combining outright speed with the kind of reliability that would allow it to complete multiple speed runs.
Engineer Greg Peek said: “In design, you start with things that you know and the things you don’t, then fill in the blanks and connect the dots. The main parts had to go through six complex processes to end up with something useful and reliable. You can go for cheap or go for bulletproof. I think our new national record shows which one we chose.”
Using electric vehicles to attain speed records is nothing new. The first six outright land speed records for motor vehicles set between 1898 and 1899 were claimed by electric cars in a tit-for-tat battle between Frenchman Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and Belgian Camille Jenatzy.
Jenatzy’s final record was in the torpedo-shaped electric “La Jamais Contente” which became the first car to exceed 100kph (62mph) reaching a speed of 66mph, a record that stood until 1902 when it was surpassed by a steam-powered car. Later that year, internal combustion’s ascendency would begin when a petrol-powered car took the title, a trend that would continue until 1963 when Craig Breedlove’s jet-engined Spirit of America took the title. Since then, the outright record has been held by either jet- or rocket-propelled vehicles.
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