In Detail: Lightning GT Electric Supercar

In this week's episode we got a chance to spend some time with a particularly interesting EV sports car. It's called the Lightning GT and it comes from a startup across the pond called Lightning Car Company. As the name would suggest, this EV supercar puts up some seriously electric numbers. Using two 150 kW motors, each mounted separately to a 5.5:1 reduction gear with an electronic differential sending power to the rear wheels, the Lightning GT is able to accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Not bad for a 4100 lb coupe--of course, 400 hp and 2400 lb-ft of torque from 0 rpm helps. (Note: while electric motors are known for their impressive torque, some EV manufacturers are goosing the numbers by measuring torque at the wheels, which is likely the case here. We would expect lower, but still substantial torque if measured at the output shaft, which is the industry standard.)

With so much energy being pulled from the batteries you'd think the Lightning GT would run out of its 150 mile range quickly. It just might have if Lightning had chosen any ordinary battery technology. But what makes the Lightning GT so unique is that it uses a different kind of battery tech from anything we've seen before, and it comes from the US. Nevada-based Altairnano is the battery supplier for the Lightning GT. Their use of lithium titanate oxide to form a spinel structure anode instead of the more typical graphite anodes allows for insanely quick recharge times of up to 10 mins.

That's right, Lightning claims only 10 mins to full charge from a dead battery with an off-board charger (typically at an energy station), 2.5 hours with an onboard charger, and 15 hours with a standard charger. Not only can the batteries recharge quickly, they also have a longer life with up to 25,000 deep cycles. And if that isn't enough to convince you, the batteries can also operate in more extreme temperatures (-40 to 130 °F) reducing the need for extensive cooling and the threat of battery fire.

The only major disadvantage when compared to standard lithium-ion batteries is less power density and higher cost. But, as the technology matures, we expect cost to go down and energy capacity to go up. This is a very promising battery application.

Because the batteries are so stable, Lightning was able to be integrated into the chassis' aluminum honeycomb web. The batteries add a great deal to the structure's rigidity. Much of what the battery can do physically, helps the GT's range hit 150 miles.

You may be thinking, "sounds too good to be true," and until Lightning releases the production version of their GT, some will remain skeptical. But, as you can see in the episode, the prototype we experienced is nonetheless very promising.

If you're excited about getting one of these EV GTs, get in line now. Lightning is only planning to produce 200 cars per year. £4,000 (currently about $6,300 USD) gets your name on a waiting list with expected deliveries in 2013. Initial cost estimates have this supercar priced at roughly $300,000 USD, but an official MSRP has yet to be released. Looking into the future, Lightning says they have a beautiful sedan and SUV coming next -- just like Tesla.

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