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Just How Fast are Electric Cars?

 

For the longest time, one of the things holding back the proliferation of electric car technology was that an electric motor simply could not provide the same level of performance as a gas engine. While reaching top speeds or casual racing is hardly a concern for most urban car owners, there was always something about bringing down that performance ceiling and, ultimately, driving around in slower cars. However, the perceived lack of performance regarding EVs could soon become a thing of the past – and might already be.

The game-changer wasn’t so much the electric motor – extremely efficient electric motors have been around for some time – but instead the battery used to power it. A fully EV vehicle requires a battery that is at once powerful enough to power a vehicle to fuel engine standards and to last a significant length of time between charges. This could not have been achieved without the Lithium-ion battery – a rechargeable battery with vary high energy density and low depletion rate – and, even with that technology, the battery still needs to be roughly the size of a mattress.

Lithium-ion technology is present in all kinds of batteries today, from smaller USB rechargeable batteries right up to the huge batteries needed for electric cars. They are also broadly considered an environmentally friendly product, with the battery company Pale Blue Earth well encapsulating this ethos in their slogan “The battery company that wants you to use less batteries.” Lasting longer than most people keep a single car, longevity is not an issue when it comes to the performance offered by an EV. 

Speed and Sports Cars

Speed can mean a vehicle’s acceleration rate or its top speed. Neither of these need to be particularly impressive for everyday driving, but within the sports car market in particular, this is actually a major concern and electric cars accordingly meet some resistance.

Sports car enthusiasts like the idea of classic brands like Porsche or Ferrari to be world-specialists in one type of car – and refine it to perfection. Accordingly, Porsche met some resistance when they first branched out into SUVs and, upon recently announced plans to go fully electric in the next ten years, Porsche afficionados are largely baulking at the thought. Of course, there is more to this than simple worries about Porsche producing slower cars. With sports cars, there is a definite romance to the revving of the engine and a real attachment to traditional design.

This shows that EV-phobia is never really entirely about speed but, for the sake of this article, we can ask the question anyway: which car is faster? 

Quick vs. Fast

The answer to that question is actually very simple – once you know some terminology. Electric cars are quicker while gas vehicles are faster. In common racing parlance, what this means is that an electric car can offer greater acceleration and will go from 0-60 quicker. Gas vehicles, on the other hand, still hang on to the top speed. 

The reasons for this are all down to the different engines involved – an electric motor and a gas engine are two very different beasts. With an electric motor, the need for transmission is eliminated and all the power from the battery goes straight to the wheels. This means that it can take off that much quicker. However, once a gas vehicle has cycled up through its gears and is approaching its top speed, it can still go faster. 

Of course, in everyday settings an electric car is almost unambiguously superior – how often, after all, do you really expect to be driving at 150mph?