From the very first time I heard about electric-powered engines, I immediately started to wonder when they will be faster than gas-powered go-karts. Recently I came across a video on youtube comparing head-to-head electric and gas-powered go-karts and wondered: are electric go-karts faster than gas-powered ones?
After some research, I came to the conclusion that electrically-powered engines are noticeably more efficient than equivalent gas-powered ones. They lose less energy in their operation and can generate much more torque and horsepower without the need to ramp up revs beforehand. Therefore, they accelerate faster, which gives them a significant advantage compared to gas-powered go-karts. When it comes to speed, it depends mainly on the gear ratios, as I will elaborate on in this article.
Why does an electric engine accelerate faster?
To put it simply, without the need of a 4-year engineering degree to comprehend it, the electromagnetic forces found in the motors of electric go-karts allow them to accelerate like no other. The almost magical consequence of using electromagnetic propulsion is that it generates incredibly high levels of torque.
In short, torque is a twisting force that represents the engine’s rotational force and measures how much of that twisting force is available when an engine exerts itself. In the context of electric go-karts, the high amount of torque means the engine is ready to engage at full power as soon as one steps on the gas pedal, thus eliminating any delay. By contrast, gas-powered go-karts waste a lot of time waiting for the revs necessary for their horsepower to finally kick in.
Furthermore, electric go-karts excel when it comes to efficiency. They manage this on the basis of their very direct line of power to the wheels, which means: less energy loss in the drivetrain. On account of that, acceleration is noticeably improved, as is their battery life and sustainability in the long run.
As a result, by the time the gas-powered go-kart gets going, the electric one is already far off in the distance, entering the first corner. Pretty convenient huh?
Why does gear ratio matter?
Gear ratios have been a topic of debate in the karting world for the longest time. They essentially ask the question: do you want more acceleration or top speed?
Many electric karts have gear ratios attuned to top speed, because of their already impressive acceleration. However, on tracks with long straights where top speed is the key to success, it might be worth it to go on the opposite side of the tuning spectrum. In the end, it is all a matter of the delicate balance of tuning.
To summarize, the ideal gear ratio depends on the circuit and personal preference, so choose wisely, as it can be the deciding factor which makes or breaks your race.
Will gas-powered engines disappear?
Based on the facts presented, one might think there is no need for gas-powered karts in the current day and age.
However, that is far from the truth. Gas-powered karts are still widely used all around the world and – while they are worse in some areas than electric ones – they excel in others. Their low cost of production makes them beneficial for many hobbyist karting tracks. They are also generally considered “fan favorites” – because gas engines provide the raw experience of racing that many racing fans seek.
To make this question easier, you can ask yourself: will Formula 1 racing disappear because of Formula E? You would probably answer: “Of course not, Formula 1 is much more prominent!”
That is the exact reason why every way of power has its place in the racing world. Whether that will change, we can only guess. But, for the time being, gas engines are here to stay.