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Engineers and enthusiasts alike will be satisfied with the 'current' crop of battery-powered sports cars. Will they replace conventional petrol-driven ones?

Category: Car Technical Advice

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Will the petrolhead ever consider an electric 'engine' for his next sports car? Perhaps,but in the meantime,here is some encouragement in the form of dynamic driving machines at the
cutting-edge of electric-vehicle design and engineering. We hereby discuss the nuts and bolts (plus volts) of creating electric sports cars with the best of 'current' automotive technology.

This is the basic technical setup of an F1 Kinetic Energy Recovery System

A Blessing and a KERS

Four years ago in 2009, Formula One authorities allowed the incorporation of a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)on F1 racecars. The device uses a battery to energise an electric motor, which gives a momentary boost to the drivetrain for short spurts of acceleration in critical situations, such as when overtaking.

The battery was limited in capacity, as was the motor power, so KERS was only available for less than seven seconds per lap. Although rated at a paltry 60kW(equivalent to 80.4bhp), which is barely 10 percent of an F1 engine's output, KERS is the closest we ever got to electrical power in Formula One racing.

Theoretically, the immediate response and instant maximum torque of an electric motor make it a perfect powerplant for any racecar, not just in Formula One. In any case, there'll be totally new formula for F1 engines from the 2014 season onwards, but any F1 fan hoping for some form of pure electric power will be disappointed.

For the foreseeable future, the primary racing engines will continue to be reciprocating-piston types with internal combustion, fuelled by either petrol or diesel.
However, in every category of international level championship motor racing, electricity-assisted engines or hybrid powertrains will be an increasingly integral part of the regulations. It should only be a matter of time before we catch fully electric racecars in action.

Leading the Charge

The credit for taking the bold first step in producing an everyday electric sportscar for general sale is Tesla Motors. Established in 2003, the company has no carmaking history and doesn't possess any motorsport pedigree, but it has been at the forefront of speedy electric motoring for the past decade. Not surprisingly, Tesla started in San Francisco's Silicon Valley, the Californian hotbed of high technology.

Following the launch of the Roadster (left), Tesla has produced a second production model, the Model S (right) - a full-electric luxury performance sedan

High-tech but low-slung is the firm's first product, the Tesla Roadster. Based on the Lotus Elise, it went into series production in 2008. Unlike any Lotus that ever bloomed, however, the groundbreaking Tesla has no engine,no fuel tank/ancillaries, and makes no noise when 'idling' at the traffic junction.

Mounted in a midship position is a 375-volt AC electric motor, which drives the rear wheels through a single-reduction
gearset and a conventional differential. The juice is supplied by lithium-ion batteries, which are claimed to store enough energy on a complete charge to power the car for a distance of 390km.
Torque The article first appeared in the June 2013 issue of Torque. Log on to their website to subscribe.
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