Racing round silently

Karting has traditionally been a noisy and polluting sport. Now, there’s an alternative to the loud, smoky karts that have been consigned to running around isolated parts of the country on Saturday afternoons. Originally developed to smash the world electric land speed record, the E-kart, as it is called, is a silent vehicle that’s capable of speeds up to 31mph. The brushless DC motor and electronic control system used as the powertrain in the E-kart was developed by Zytek Automotive.

‘The E-kart is designed to the same engineering standards as our Formula One and BTCC products and it really shows in the performance and handling,’ says Zytek engineer Barry James.

To exploit the potential of the powertrain, the E-kart is built on a silicone-bronze welded Bowman Pro-kart racing chassis. It gives good handling and stability, allowing the torque to be used to steer the vehicle on the throttle much more safely than a standard kart. Where the kart is used by younger, or less experienced drivers, one of up to 16 lower power settings can be selected to match their ability.

A Formula One-style telemetry system can be installed that allows a trackside computer to communicate with the kart’s control system via a radio link. It is also able to monitor battery levels and receive diagnostic information from each kart. Selected karts can be remotely ‘down-powered’, by the system if a driver gets a yellow flag, or if all the karts in a group need to be brought to a standstill.

To extend racing time between charges, the kart features computer-controlled regenerative braking. This system uses the kart’s kinetic energy to recharge the batteries by running the motor as a generator when it is not required to produce power. The braking effect increases as the ‘throttle’ is lifted and is proportional to vehicle speed to give the driving feel of a conventional petrol engine.

The karts are available with a choice of batteries offering up to 40min typical race time between charges depending on usage. Typical recharge times are 5min to 10min. All the batteries are resistant to spills even if punctured.

The karts themselves are virtually maintenance-free and running costs are said to be lower than conventional petrol karts.