There is something about the human spirit that makes us want to go faster, further and higher than anybody else. It’s a competitive edge that drives technology forward and leaves the rest of the human race in quiet awe.
So when we finally accepted that oil’s days were numbers and we would have to switch to electric power, it was always going to turn into an arms race.
Now companies are chasing the highest numbers, for sales, PR purposes and championship victories. So what are the fastest electric cars in the world in terms of outright top speed?
There are more and we could have filled this list with drag cars that have embraced electric power, but here are 10 of our favorites and a broad spectrum.
1. Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3
Top speed: 240.32mph
You might know Venturi from its exploits in Formula E, or the series of crazy electric concepts it produced after leaving the world of boutique, petrol-powered supercars far behind. This, though, is something else.
It’s a pure land speed record car, that’s why it’s shaped like a long bullet. It really isn’t designed for corners, or stopping, or anything other than top end speed.
Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research has made its name with zero emissions land speed record holders. It took one record for electric cars with Nickel-Hydride batteries in 2004, which was 303mph, and another with a hydrogen fuel cell car in 2009.
In 2015, with the help of Venturi and 2 MegaWatts of Lithium-Ion battery power, Roger Schroer recorded a two-way record averaging more than 240mph on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats. Now this car is well short of the record as it stands, but the team is coming back.
The car is theoretically capable of 372mph right now, but surface degradation has kept them off the salt flats. The end goal is an electric car that breaks the 400mph mark, although once they get there the team will probably keep on going.
A jet-powered car currently holds the overall land speed record of 763.035mph, so there’s a long way to go before electric power really rules the land speed roost.
2. Rimac Concept S
Top speed: 227mph
This car is so close to production that it has earned its place on the list, in any case the ‘lesser’ Concept One would have taken its place and this is the faster car.
This 1032kW (1384bhp) monster isn’t a simple rocket, although it comes with 1328lb/ft of torque. It’s a highly-polished version of the Concept One that is finally out in the wild and laying waste to big name hypercars like the LaFerrari on the drag strip.
The Concept One has ripped up the rulebook when it comes to electric supercars and the Concept S takes it to the next level. This is a car that will hit 60mph in 2.5s, 125mph in 5.6s and 185mph in 13.1s. That is borderline insane and this car genuinely pushes the Bugatti Chiron right to the wire.
It’s an incredible piece of engineering, a polished car and even though it will cost well over $1 million when Rimac finally confirms the price, it will have no trouble selling as many as it wants to make.
3. Ford Fusion 999
Top speed: 207.297mph
This one is a little different, because it has a hydrogen fuel cell powering the 770bhp electric motor in the back.
It’s another Bonneville Salt Flats car, though, there really isn’t a practical use for Ford’s beast apart from going in a straight line at ridiculous speed.
The Blue Oval basically built a Frankenstein’s monster out of a NASCAR chassis, but it didn’t do it alone. Ohio State University had a hand in this car, too, in fact it was the students’ idea and Ford agreed to fund the project and provide parts.
Now the car weighs in at 6700lb and its carrying two high-pressure tanks of hydrogen on board as part of a 350kW powerplant. That generates power that goes through an inverter and a 770bhp motor, mated to a six-speed gearbox taken from a Ford GT.
Bonneville veteran Rick Byrnes got the dubious honor of taking the car to the limit and it’s potentially a landmark moment for hydrogen fuel cell technology.
4. Genovation GXE
Top speed: 205.6mph
It is a little confusing, officially the fastest street legal car in the world is well down the list. But then it’s never going to compete with a land speed record car and the Rimac just hasn’t set an official time.
As soon as it does, Genovation should lose the record that is its USP right now.
The American-made machine, an electrified version of the Corvette Z06, actually recorded this speed at Cape Canaveral earlier this year. It broke its own record in the process.
The car has two 250kW motors that put out the equivalent of 660bhp and 602lb/ft of torque. So the Genovation is as fast as most road cars get.
It only has a range of 130 miles and it costs $330,000. So the Tesla Model S P100D might be a better option now. But if you really want a sportscar with electric power and you’re not ready for the Rimac, then this is the only one for you.
5. Drayson Racing B12/69EV
Top speed: 204.185mph
Lord Drayson wanted to race his Lola LMP1 car fitted with an electric motor for each wheel.
The car was a total beast and it is a thoroughbred race chassis that had already tasted victory in the American Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series with a Flex-Fuel engine and again with biofuel. The electric powerplant never made it to the track, but it still made an almighty impression.
The car had 640kW (850bhp) and a borderline insane 2950lb/ft of torque split between four motors. It hit 60ph in 3.0s flat and 100mph in 5.1s, but the 30kWh battery was a weak point and the car would have struggled to compete in terms of range with the diesel and hybrid cars that emerged as the dominant forces in sportscar racing.
That didn’t matter for one brief run on Elvington Airfield in the north of England in June 2013. During the development, the team did a high speed run, accelerating to an average of 204.185mph over two runs.
It was enough to take the electric land speed record at the time and we think it’s a shame this car never actually got to compete. It might not have lasted long enough, but it was definitely quick.
6. SR-37 Electric Dragster
Top speed: 184.01mph
Don ‘Big Daddy’ Garlits is a legend in the drag racing community. He’s the first man to break the 200mph mark in a petrol car and is often called the father of drag racing.
So it warms our hearts to see him embrace new technology and build the mother of all electric drag racing cars.
If you think SR-37 sounds like a hi-tech codename, it actually stands for Swamp Rat. It’s typical of the drag racing humor, this is a blue collar sport despite the technology involved. The Kickstarter campaign to finish the car was a unique touch, but it speaks volumes that major manufacturers are spending billions and this small outfit asked for $25,000 to finish the car.
This 1500kW (2000bhp) rocket packs in six DC motors fueled by four 420V Lithium-Polymer battery packs. There is no official torque figure, but rest assured that it is huge and the power output per cell is huge compared to the likes of the Tesla Model S P100D. As for range, drag cars only need to do a quarter-mile.
At the Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, this was enough power to catapult the SR-37 down the strip in 7.25s, with a trap speed of 184.01mph in May 2014.
Could it go faster? Of course it could, but drag cars are limited to the strip so the top speed is what it can achieve in 402 meters.
The cars are engineered for the task at hand and that’s the only reason it’s not nibbling at the number one spot. They’re also close, so we could fill the rest of this list with dragsters, but we won’t.
7. e0 PP100
Top speed: 161mph
The e0 PP100 runs up the side of a mountain and in the hands of Rhys Millen it stormed to victory in one of the most iconic races in North America. Again the car is engineered for hard acceleration out of the bends, downforce and traction on the side of a mountain.
There are fast and sweeping sections on the mountain course that switched to a full tarmac track in 2012. But the speed trap record currently lies at 145mph, so the car doesn’t need to go more than 160mph. That extra bit of speed is simply there.
It’s a legacy of the seven motors producing 1190kW (1596bhp) and a simply epic 1859lb/ft of torque, all powered by a small 50kWh battery pack that helps keep the weight to 2645lb.
Yes, really, half the battery power of a Tesla Model S P100D and almost triple the power and torque.
The car hasn’t got a huge range, but it needs to go 12.42 miles to finish a run on the mountain.
8. Tesla Model X P100D
Top speed: 155mph
Mad isn’t it? This is a seven-seater SUV and the only reason it’s not higher on the list is that Tesla followed the gentleman’s agreement formed by BMW, Mercedes and Audi to limit the top end to 155mph.
This car would even put up a fair fight with some of the contenders on this list when it comes to acceleration, with five adults on board. With a 0-60mph time of just 2.9s, the P100D is a pure powerhouse.
Of course the Model S is faster to 60mph and technically deserves a sport, too. But the top speed is the same, we’re only going to put in one Tesla and it just seemed funnier to have the Model X here.
Elon Musk only just announced the new range topper, which is as remarkable for its range as it is for its pure speed. It covers 315 miles on a charge, according to the EPA, so if there was some kind of long distance rally then it would wipe the floor with all of these other cars.
9. Formula E
Top speed: 140mph
The one-make racing series that has put electric motorsport on the world stage is also a quick car, which is set for a speed boost this year.
The Spark-Renault car has come in for a redesign this year and gets a novel biplane front wing. This 1898lb single-seater comes with a 200kW (268bhp) motor and that’s more than enough to propel it 60mph in 3s and on to 140mph.
Formula E cars could easily go faster. They will, in the end, but this is a one-make racing series and equality and consistency is more important than outright speed. The cars race on narrow street circuits, too, so more power could actually be a recipe for disaster.
10. White Zombie
Top speed: 129mph
This home-brew 1972 Datsun 1200 is one of the most entertaining electric cars we’ve seen, probably because it is so totally inappropriate.
The owner, John ‘Plasma Boy’ Wayland, ripped out the engine and back seats and then jammed in as many batteries as the car could take. He started out with lead acid batteries, before ripping them all out and replacing them with Lithium-Ion.
Now we think it might be good for more than 129mph, because it has hit 123mph on the drag strip with official timing gear. But that’s what Wayland reckons, so who are we to argue?
The car hits 60mph in 1.8s, which is ridiculous for a machine that comes from the era of glitterballs and bad fashion. Wayland claims just 450bhp and a much more impressive 1250lb/ft of torque.
What’s your favorite car on this list? Know of a fast electric car that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments!