Times are changing, and sooner than later, electrified cars will become the norm across the automotive industry. With an electrified approach to powertrains, it does beg the question: will an electric car be the first production car to crack 300 mph?
It’s a target that has eluded various high-performance cars for decades, and even today’s fastest production car, the Bugatti Chiron, steers clear of the number three with a 261 mph top speed for now (a true top speed attempt will be made in 2018).
Engineering Explained tackled the idea of an electric car’s capability to hit the magic number, and long story short, it could, but there are still many barriers.
Foremost, we need to look at why cars powered by internal combustion engines can’t reach such a speed. Aerodynamic drag is the main culprit. With loads of cooling systems onboard, internal-combustion engines create substantially more drag. It’s the nature of the beast. On the other hand, electric motors and batteries are much more efficient in power delivery and require less cooling. On paper, it seems feasible, but digging deeper shows the setbacks electric cars possess.
Although electric cars do not need to reject more energy, they operate at much lower temperatures. It’s also more difficult for electric cars to reject heat. Jason Fenske, Engineering Explained’s host, recalls most electric car radiators are still the same size as ones fitted to internal combustion engines. Furthermore, internal combustion engines are better at rejecting heat because they operate at higher temperatures than electric motors and batteries. Thus, it’s sort of a wash when comparing both powertrains—unique challenges exist for both.
The idea of an electric car becoming the first production car to reach 300 mph isn’t any less of a challenge than a traditional car. And we didn’t even discuss the other barrier to 300 mph: tires. Without a compound that can handle the forces at such a high speed, a 300 mph production car is likely fiction for the foreseeable future.