Looking for a way to allow youth to embrace electric cars? One option might be a niche sport known as electrathon racing.
An electrathon is a competition to go the farthest in one hour powered only by commercial lead acid batteries weighing no more than 73 pounds — the weight of two conventional car batteries. This battery pack, discharged for one hour, amounts to just under one kilowatt.
Electrathon vehicles are usually three- or four-wheeled electric vehicles, somewhat similar in overall appearance to a go-cart with an aerodynamic body, but powered by an electric motor and batteries. Safety regulations require features such as braking systems, roll bars, and electrical disconnects. The main tactical issue in electrathon is posed by the fact that high speeds drain the batteries rapidly, resulting in the car’s not being able to roll around the track for the entire hour, so teams must compromise speed in order to gain distance.
Electrathon racing started in England, spread to Australia, and arrived in the United States in the 1980s. Because electrathon racing is relatively inexpensive and can teach kids about everything from advanced electrical engineering to how to change a tire, the sport in increasingly popular among high schools, who field teams at races across the country.
Recently the Emerald Coast Electrathon Classic was held at the Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. A total of eight high school, three college and two open division teams competed. Kipp Delta, a high school team came in second overall, behind only Pro EV, a team in the open division.
And lest you think these vehicles are just child’s play, consider this: the current electrathon record for distance traveled is 62.05 miles, set in 2009. The current land speed record in this space? Set in 2008 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, reportedly at a top speed of just over 110 MPH.