CARS powered by electricity have traditionally been dismissed as being uncool but all such talk was forgotten yesterday as an electric car reached speeds of 151mph and earned a spot in the record books.
The Nemesis, driven by Nick Ponting, hit 151mph during a run at Elvington airfield, near York, yesterday breaking the UK electric car land-speed record of 137mph set by Don Wales, the grandson of speed ace Sir Malcolm Campbell, a decade ago.
Nemesis broke the record with a first run averaging speeds of 148mph yesterday morning. Then Ponting, 21, bettered this with a 151mph later.
The achievement was ratified by the Motor Sports Association at the Yorkshire track.
Ponting, who lives in Gloucester and works for an estate agency in Stroud, has had years of experience racing a range of cars since his early teenage years.
He said the amazing thing about the car was its consistent rapid acceleration at all speeds.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we are in the record books,” he said. “It was nice to break the record once and then smash it again – which proved a point really.
“They’ve done such a good job with the car. It’s an amazing result.”
The makers of the Nemesis say it is the first electric supercar built in the UK and they hope it will change ideas electric-powered cars as being boring and slow.
It is the brainchild of Dale Vince, founder of green electricity company Ecotricity, of Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Mr Vince said: “This is brilliant. We built the Nemesis to smash the stereotype of electric cars as something Noddy would drive – slow, boring, not cool – and I think we’ve done exactly that today.
“Hopefully this will further stimulate debate about the future of transport in Britain and how we’ll be getting around when the world runs out of oil.”
He said the Nemesis is powered entirely by electricity generated by Ecotricity’s network of 53 wind turbines around the UK.
It was designed and built in less than two years by a team of leading British motorsport engineers in Norfolk. The team behind Nemesis also problem-solve for the world’s top motor sports teams, yet not one of them had ever worked on electric cars before.
The car began life as a second-hand Lotus Exige bought on eBay, and was rebuilt from the ground up.
Engineers working on the ground-breaking project lengthened the chassis by 90mm, lowered and shifted the centre of gravity forward, fitted two brushless motors, a completely new transmission, and a lot of electronic wizardry. Several patents to protect the unique design have already been applied for.
Mr Vince said the Nemesis is, on paper, capable of topping 200mph.
Unlike a combustion engine, electric cars have 100 per cent torque from a standing start and in initial speed tests last year the road legal Nemesis did 0-100mph in 8.5 seconds.
It can travel for 100 to 150 miles between charges, depending on driving style, and can be charged from empty in less than 30 minutes.
Ponting began his racing career at the age of 12, racing go-karts.
He received his racing licence at the age of fourteen and now the 21-year-old has experience of racing a range of cars from Formula BMWs to Formula Fords.
Last summer Mr Wales attempted to break his own record but ran into trouble on the beach at Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire.
The Nemesis is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board under its Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstration Programme, which aims to carry out real world testing of British-designed & built ultra-low carbon electric vehicles.
Mr Vince said he hoped the Nemesis would help to give green technology a new image. “What we’ve been able to demonstrate is that wind-powered cars are not just feasible, but can be a load of fun.”