Simpsoh

Above: Steve Hill drives a late model h, how cute!" you think to yourself. "A little electric car for kids." Then the car stops, its roof no higher than your knees. The canopy opens, and a six-foot-tall man steps out, like some kind of stage magic trick. You've just encountered your first Electrathon racer.

Where It Began

In 1978, EV enthusiasts in Great Britain formed the United Kingdom Electric Vehicle Association (UKEVA), and decided to hold an EV competition, with the assistance of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

The competition had two parts: a design and theory part, and a practical construction part. Many entrants were excluded from the second part because they could not afford the expense of bringing their design to life. To eliminate this problem, competitors were encouraged to develop very simple, economical designs. Since the vehicles were never intended to mix with regular street traffic, it was possible to make them much smaller, simpler, and more affordable.

The vehicles they built would compete in an electric marathon—an electrathon. This competition was the Lucas Electric Vehicle Endurance Run. All vehicles were supplied with identical 25 kg packs of Lucas batteries, and the race was on.

Next Stop—Down Under

(Australian-to-American translations in parentheses.)

version of Clark Beasley's "Slingshot."

In 1979, John Stevens, president of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), saw the Lucas competition in the UK, and decided to start a similar event back home. The first Australian race ran in 1980 in a shopping centre carpark (shopping center parking lot), with a course laid out with witches hats (traffic cones). It had seven entries, all electric bicycles. The course was so short that the vehicles completed a— literally—dizzying 130 laps in two hours.

In 1981, the race was moved to a caravan park (RV park). This was not a good move. The course was L-shaped, and created congestion where competitors made U-turns at the ends.

In 1982, the event moved to a better site at another shopping centre. While it was a better course, it did have one problem. There were cars parked in the "infield", and riders soon made the rude discovery that at least one car was parked across the course. In addition, this was the first—and only—electrathon in which drivers "came off their vehicles" involuntarily and suffered injuries.

Sorting It All Out

As a result, major changes to the rules were made. Since schools and student drivers were heavily involved, safety was a high priority. It was decided to have a specific class for an Electrathon vehicle with emphasis on safety requirements. Then these vehicles would run separately from electric cycles and other vehicles with less stringent requirements and different handling characteristics. Thus, the Electrathon racer was born.

Below: Courses may be flat road courses, like this, or banked ovals. /fc,

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