Drag racing has long been perceived the preserve of gas-guzzling street-legal and hot rod cars, modified motorcycles, and highly-expensive, custom-built rail dragsters, but for years now a team of dedicated electric vehicle drag racing enthusiasts have shown the world that electric vehicles have what it takes to give most gas drag-cars a tough time down the strip.
For years John “Plasmaboy” Wayland and fellow racers in the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) have thrilled audiences with the blisteringly fast times of cars like White Zombie, the fastest street-legal electric drag car in the world, but now a new car is making the headlines as the fastest non-rail drag car in the world - Black Current III.
As is often the case on the Internet, interest in Black Current III has spiked recently following a rather inaccurate feature on the car by U.K. tabloid newspaper The Daily Mail. Following the article, more posts were made on numerous web sites - including some pretty high profile ones - creating some pretty impressive myths about the car.
Since we’ve been trackside and watched Black Current III ourselves, we spoke directly to Olly and Sam Young, Black Current III’s team leader and driver in order to clear up a few myths and set the record straight.
Not a single milk float part in sight
The biggest myth floating around the Internet is that Black Current III is powered by a repurposed milk-float motor.
Popular in the U.K. between the 1940s and 1980s, milk floats were slow-moving electric trucks used to deliver milk and other groceries to households early in the morning and have long been blamed for perpetuating the myth that all electric cars are slow.
Where did the confusion come from? Black Current, Olly and Sam’s first drag car, made use of an electric motor from a 1960s Morrison Milk float. It could manage a top speed of 55 mph, and reached a 1/4 mile in 21 seconds.
In contrast, Black Current III makes use of a custom-modified twin Netgain Impulse 9” motors built specially for them by drag racing motor specialist Jim Husted, costing nearly $10,000, and developing well over 12,000 ft-lbs of torque.
Custom batteries, not motorcycle ones
In drag racing, weight needs to be kept low, and power high. That’s why the team behind Black Current III shifted from the motorcycle batteries found in its earlier sibling Black Current II to an ultra-light custom-built Lithium Cobalt Oxide battery pack, capable of producing up to 680 kilowatts of power through a Zilla 2K-HV controller to propel Black Current III from 0-60 in 1.6 seconds.
Unlike the off-the-shelf lead acid motorcycle batteries many of the articles quote Black Current III as having, the custom Lithium Cobalt Oxide battery pack is similar to high energy density battery packs found in model airplanes and can withstand the high current discharging required in a drag race.
No-where near stock
As you’ve probably realized already, despite what some of the articles are claiming, Black Current III is not simply a VW Beetle with an electric motor bolted in.
Instead, a VW Beetle tub, complete with fiber glass panels and acrylic windows all round, has been placed around a full race-specification chromoly chassis and roll-cage. Certified with all the necessary organizations, this places Black Current III in the Extreme Street and Pro Street categories of racing, meaning it isn’t road legal.
The drivetrain isn’t stock either, with a Ford 9” rear custom differential and 27” rear wheels.
Still a record-holder
Regardless of the confusion about its specifications, Black Current III is still a very impressive car. With a quarter mile time of 9.51 seconds at an amazing 135 mph, it is currently the fastest non-rail (top rail) dragster in the world. Only three electric drag vehicles - the rail based Current Eliminator IV dragster - and electric drag motorcycles Killa-Cycle and Rocket are faster.
Watching any high-power electric drag car race is great fun. Why not check out NEDRA’s website to find a race near you.