BY ALEXANDER GEORGE
Garlits, often called the father of drag racing, hopes to set that benchmark this week. He isn’t the first guy to bring batteries to the drag strip, but if he achieves his goal, it will shatter the existing benchmark by more than 41 mph.
He’ll make the attempt at the wheel of Swamp Rat 37. It features a lithium-polymer battery made of four packs, two on each side of the car. Each pack holds 300 lithium polymer cells for a total of 1,200 cells, producing a maximum of 420V with a current of 3,600 amps. That rig provides juice to six 7.5-inch series-wound DC motors from GE. The whole setup produces produce 1,500 kilowatts — that’s just a bit more than 2,000 horsepower.
That kind of power is nothing in a world where top fuel dragsters puts down 8,000 horsepower or so and kiss 325 mph, but it’s still an impressive figure. The chassis, built by renowned builder Brad Hadman, is made of 4130 chromoly tubing. It’s got a 265-inch wheelbase and an aluminum alloy body.
The SR-37 runs off of a 1,200-cell lithium polymer battery array. Photo: Randy Cannon
The dragster has been two years in the making, beginning with trial runs in 2012. His team launched a Kickstarter but canceled it April 4 after raising just $5,635. The team charged ahead and plans to make its run for 200 mph this week at Bradenton Motorsports Park, not far from Tampa, Florida.
Garlits is synonymous with drag racing, having made his first run in 1950 and scoring his first major win five years later.
He is a legend, with 17 championships to his name and a book full of records. He was the first to hit several speed milestones, including 150, 180, 200 and 250 mph. His run for 200 mph under electric power comes 50 years after he hit that benchmark in a gas-burning dragster.
Electric drag racing has long been a thing, with cars White Zombie proving the EV haters wrong. There’s even a a National Electric Drag Racing Association. Dennis Berube holds the current record for an electric quarter mile run, tripping the lights at 159.85 mph in 2007 with Current Eliminator V. Look beyond the dragstrip, though, and Ohio State University’s Buckeye Bullet set the electric vehicle land speed record at 307 mph.