This week, a student-built electric car from Brigham Young University (BYU) set a land speed record of 155.8 mph, the fastest ever for an electric car. This is the second such record from electric or hybrid cars in the past month, the other being Infiniti's M35h entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest hybrid car with a 13.9 second quarter mile. These are far from the speeds seen in professional racing, but do these electric and hybrid racers have anything to contribute?
For context, the professional racing speed record is 251.2 mph, seen at Le Mans in 1997. The F1 record of 224.9mph was set by David Coulthard in 1999. Even this can't reach the dizzying heights of 763 mph, the current land speed record set in Nevada's Black Rock Desert in 1997, and teams are at work to break the 1,000mph barrier next year.
The “Electric Blue” car from students at BYU weighs less than 1,100 pounds and barely has an inch of ground clearance. The record was the result of seven years of work by unpaid student who overcame a high-speed crash last year as well as challenges unique to EVs such as heavy batteries. The record was an average of two runs, one of which reached speeds of 175 mph.
However, it is Infiniti's hybrid that piques our interest. Their involvement with Red Bull Racing means they have a vested interest in experimenting with speed. The Infiniti M35h's 67hp electric motor combined with the 302hp V6 engine to achieve this acceleration record, which could eventually lead to technologies to help racers looking for a boost coming out of the pit.
Infiniti's focus is on luxury and efficiency rather than record-breaking speed, and the recent record only puts it on par with the 1998 BMW M3. However, with more EVs and hybrid cars breaking speed records ever year, it seems like manufacturers are trying to position electric as the new normal – just a fast car, rather than “fast for a hybrid”. Hopefully, developments in the next decade will lead to electric technology that brings both more power and more green awareness to the sport.