Green Overdrive: Kleenspeed’s Record-Breaking Electric Race Car

The guy who’s flying around the track in our latest episode of Green Overdrive makes “the most interesting man in the world,” look rather dull. That would be Tim Collins, 70-year-old investment banker and founder of electric vehicle startup Kleenspeed. At the Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca earlier this month, Collins drove his company’s West EV to win the time trial, breaking the former year’s record. He tells me in our video interview after his run that he founded Kleenspeed to use electric race cars to test electric vehicle technology “on the edge.”

Of course he did. He also used to own a mining company, a professional hockey team in the 60’s, and is an amateur race car driver. He and his team are building the technology at the perfect place for that mantra: NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

At NASA, Collins and his team designed the West EV (the one he raced in the time trial) and which can go 160 miles per hour, uses an AC Propulsion motor, and has 1,600 lithium ferrous phosphate batteries. In true fashion to EV race cars, it only takes 17 minutes, or maybe 10 laps, to use up all of the juice in the battery — it has that much performance.

But Collins tells me one day the company hopes to build a compact, lower power consumer car that will have six times the amount of range of their EV racecars. “We’re designing and prototyping it right now. We plan to get into the car business,” says Collins.

To watch the full episode of Green Overdrive — where if it’s green we’ll drive it — check out our latest episode on Kleenspeed’s below. And check out our previous episodes on how to give your Prius a plug, Mitsuibishi’s iMiev, Brammos’ electric motorcycle, the Zero electric motorcycle, and the Chevy Volt.