If I asked you to place a bet on something safer than Volkswagen's future in the car industry, it would be the adoption of electric vehicles on road and on racetracks. My articles focus on the current transition manufacturers are showcasing from human-driven gasoline vehicles to autonomous electric prototypes. Now you don't have to be a rocket scientist to predict that electric cars have become a necessity amidst rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns. E-mobility is a reality of the future all petrol heads will have to accept.
Over the last few months, I have written articles on how electrification will add a whole new dimension to the way people travel. I have also spoken to a number of my friends about electric vehicles and how they feel about the trolley problem. It is worth noting that I hadn't had the chance to be in any electric vehicle to see how the car feels and if it really is much different to drive compared to our beloved gasoline vehicles. My recent vacation however changed that.
I spent a week in Mumbai before travelling to Goa for a vacation which was long due. Now, it isn't very hard to distract me with cars. If you've seen how fixated a chimpanzee is while looking at a screen, you can imagine me doing the same with any car that looks even slightly out of the ordinary. I was deep into judging an overly modified Hyundai hatchback when I saw a Tesla Model S right behind it. Once they were out of sight, I learnt about a go karting track nearby. Unsurprisingly, we found ourselves standing outside the track in the next few minutes.
My first ever track event!
The hub was called Smash. It had everything from laser tag, 10 pin bowling, virtual cricket to arcade games. But all I was interested in were the electric karts going around the 430 Meter circuit. I have seen enough videos on how to take an apex, the braking line and the fundamentals of racing. While I stood there waiting for my turn and observing other participants, my heart was racing. A board told us about the cars and the track.
The first heat had 6 drivers. The organisers explained the rules and mentioned that if we finished any lap within 42 seconds, the top speed of the cars would increase. Furthermore, if we lapped within 40 seconds, our beers would be on the house. We had a total of 8 minutes before the batteries died. The goal now was simple.
I took a couple of laps to understand the car and the circuit. The steering was almost impossible. The kart would go into a massive drift if I braked too hard. The acceleration on that weightless cart was intoxicating. It was time to let loose. I zoomed past a couple of cars before I found myself stuck behind the first car who had sworn to not let me through.
Our allotted time flew by. As I entered the pit and tried to get out of the car, all I could think of was if I had come close to getting unlimited beers. The time to beat was 40 seconds. My fastest lap was 1:03:59. The car in front did a 1:06:92.
That moment was both embarrassing and funny. In the hope that it really was the car in front who had ruined our lap times. We decided to go for a second run.
I made sure I was sitting in the first of the available cars. The organisers explained the rules again. We left the pit. The cars positioned themselves on the grid waiting for the lights to go green. I sat there, taking in every moment of my first ever race. As I turned to look at my friend through the helmet, we knew we had to get those free beers. The scene in my head was that of a Fast and Furious movie. I wanted to hear the V8 scream and pressed the accelerator and BOOM, heard nothing. Reality check, electric batteries don't do much to hype the sensation of being in a race for sure.
The lights turned green. All the karts took off. There was no time to waste. I know the car and the track. I know the turns and the apexes I had to take. On my 3rd lap, I could feel the car had more speed on the straights. I knew I had touched the 42 second mark. It was time to break the 40 second record. I could taste the beer and kept pushing. Our allotted time flew by. Helmets off, jumped out of the car to run to the screen. My best lap was 40:48 while averaging 41:97. My friend did a 40:89 while averaging 41:90.
We didn't qualify for the free beers. That wasn't enough to kill the adrenaline the karts gave me. After the race, I was sweaty, my arms were sore and my legs were cramping. It made me appreciate the effort put in by professional racers who spend hours on the track.
Was this race enough to make me an electro-head?
We did another go-karting session in Goa in traditional diesel karts on a bigger circuit. I can tell you beyond any doubt that the electric go-karts were much more fun to drive and less likely to make you feel like they would explode.
Let me end this article by saying that if I was on a drag strip and heard nothing when I revved the engine, I would be utterly disappointed. While I still try and establish my place in the magical haven of cars, I would to like my first race on track to be in a car with no less than 8 cylinders. The soundtrack that sends chills down my spine and makes every strand of hair jump up, every single time.
An electric future is the necessity. A petrol present however, is love.