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Dragstrip legend Big Daddy Don Garlits sets EV quarter mile record, and wants more

Forget about cheap commuting — how about a 200-mph quarter mile in an EV? Hitting that speed in an electric dragster is Don Garlits’ current quest, as reported by Electrek.

Just to set the context about the driver, here’s just a bit about his background. Better known as “Big Daddy,” Garlits was the first driver to break the 200 mph dragstrip barrier in a gas-powered dragster on August 2, 1964. Garlits’ Swamp Rat VI dragster went through the lights at 201.34 mph in 7.78 seconds for a National Hot Road Association (NHRA) record speed. That wasn’t Garlits’ only NHRA record. He was also the first to hit 170, 180, 240, 250, and 270 mph in quarter-mile races.

So far, Garlit’s best EV dragster run has been 185.60 mph in 7.274 seconds with his Swamp Rat 37 dragster, which he claims produces the equivalent of 2,000 horsepower. Garlits made his electric dragster run in 2014 and is still on his quest for a 200 mph quarter mile on battery power.

Actually, another EV has hit the 200 mph level, but it’s not a car, not even a dragster. An electric motorcycle, the Rocket, topped the mark in 2012, hitting 201.37 mph in 6.94 seconds.

An organization called the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) documents the various electric vehicle categories and race records on its website.

The top official quarter-mile speed and time  record with a street production car is Brooks Weisblat’s Tesla Model P90D Ludicrous, with a time of 11.24 seconds and a top speed of 118.58 mph. Weisblat’s run was on January 31, 2016. Since sub-11 second unofficial times with Tesla P90Ds and P100Ds are now being reported, odds are the official record will fall soon.

More recently, a NEDRA XS class (eXtreme Street) record was recently set in England on July 24, 2016. Black Current III, a 400V modified Volkswagen Beetle, set the class time record of 8.28 seconds with a top speed of 159 mph. An EV Pontiac Firebird called Shock and Awe, built by high school students in Bothell, Washington came close to the time at 8.32 seconds but set a new class high-speed record at 166 mph.

If your prime motivations for buying, or even considering, an electric vehicle are minimizing fuel costs and lowering your carbon footprint, you’ve likely not reached this paragraph. It’s safe to say, however, that the attraction, if not the obsession, that many have with motor vehicles is about speed and performance. If EVs can get the attention of a sufficient portion of the motor enthusiast world based on performance factors, the overall shift to electric-powered vehicles will proceed faster as well.