We caught up with Ian Wright last week to ask him about his “X-1″ prototype, an all-electric car that ought to be getting a lot of attention. After all, this car has already been around a few years, long enough, for example, to have beaten the Ferrari 360 Spider and the Porsche Carrera GT in drag races. The X-1 does zero to 60 mph in 3.07 seconds. Only the Bugatti Veyron – packing 1,000-horsepower with 16-cylinders – can do better. The Bugatti does zero to 60 in 2.7 seconds. But the Bugatti Veyron costs $1.25 million and gets 8 mpg.
WRIGHTSPEED’S X-1 PROTOTYPE
|Zero to sixty mph in 3.07 seconds.|
What Ian Wright wanted to talk about was not the speed of his car, but the efficiency. As electric cars begin to compete with gasoline vehicles, they have one huge advantage – the efficiency doesn’t decrease as the power capacity increases. As Wright put it “internal combustion engine cars have an intrinsic conflict: if they are built for performance, they are thirsty; if they are built for efficiency, they are slow.”
Compared to internal combustion engines, electric motors have a far greater range of usable RPM. The X-1, for example, can accelerate to 112 mph in 1st gear! Because of extraordinary torque at low RPM, or even starting from a standstill, an electric motor doesn’t have to have a low gear, and with over 10,000 RPM still within a comfortable operating range, you don’t need a lot of high gears, either. Many electric cars only have one forward gear, and two forward gears is usually more than adequate.
Electric motors also weigh much less than internal combustion engines, for the same amount of horsepower. What Wrightspeed’s X-1 is waiting for, along with all electric cars, is better batteries. But recent battery advances already make all electric cars feasible for shorter-range commuting applications.
Ian Wright emphasized that the niche for electric cars is not necessarily to displace economy cars. It is the gas guzzling cars where all-electric cars will compete successfully, at least at first. This may seem counter-intuitive until you think about the cost of driving a high-performance sports car or a heavy truck. If you can get the same performance from an electric car, and instead of getting 8 mpg, you get the equivalent of 170 mpg, what are you going to drive? Especially when in terms of power and performance, electric motors are superior to gasoline engines?
It’s interesting to note as well that in terms of eliminating dependence on oil imports, replacing one car that gets 10 mpg with an electric vehicle has the same impact as replacing five cars that get 50 mpg. This fact, along with dramatically lower operating costs and superior performance, suggests the age of the electric car is just around the corner. And they won’t be glorified golf carts. They’ll be the hottest cars on the road.