Are Electric Cars Faster Than Gas Ones?

Can a high-performance EV go faster than a souped-up gas car? It's not always easy to tell.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Electric cars
are faster to accelerate than gas-powered cars, but gas-powered cars can maintain higher speeds for longer than EVs.
  • In a test between the EV BMW i4 and the internal combustion BMW M3, the ICE M3 won
  • Electric cars
    have instant torque and faster acceleration but are limited by battery power
  • Conventional powertrains can handle more power and reach higher speeds

The BMW i4 M50 versus the BMW M3

The i4 M50 is the first electric BMW to wear the M badge, which is reserved for the brand’s top performance line of vehicles.
Intrigued by this,
Car and Driver
decided to put the EV through its paces, by testing it against the M3 Competition, an even more souped-up version of the high-octane M3. The test showed that the electric model, boasting 536 horsepower from two electric motors, was quicker to reach 60 mph than its gas-powered counterpart (3.3 seconds vs 3.5 seconds).
However, the M3 Competition, using a 503-hp twin-turbo inline-six cylinder engine, has the higher top speed. It beat the EV by 0.1 seconds in the quarter-mile, and took less time to reach 80 mph—proving that ICE vehicles are still the fastest cars around.
MORE: The World's Fastest EVs Squared Off in A Drag Race
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How do fast EVs compare to high-performance ICE cars?

As explained above, electric cars have quicker acceleration than gas cars, thanks to the instant power generated by an electric motor. However, gas-powered cars still have the faster top speeds, and they can sustain these high speeds for longer.
The main reason EVs can accelerate so fast: their
efficiency
and lack of transmission. 
With an EV, power goes directly to the wheelbase without having to first run through a transmission like gas-powered cars. What electric cars may lack in speed, they make up for in torque. Unlike a typical combustion engine, an electric motor has no gears to shift into, so the process of going from zero to sixty can happen almost instantaneously.
On the other hand: Not having a transmission enables EVs to accelerate quickly, but it also means that they struggle to maintain the requisite power delivery at very high speeds. 
Meanwhile, conventional powertrains do use transmissions, which enable the car’s engine to handle more power than an electric motor. Ultimately this leads to improved performance at very high speeds with ICE vehicles.
Plus, speed limitations on electric cars are often put in place by manufacturers themselves to prevent drivers from totally tapping out their battery charge. Driving an EV at high speeds can have a huge drain on the battery due to energy utilized and
aerodynamic drag
sapping the battery power.
So while many electric cars can get from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds, because of the way power is distributed EVs can’t top out at fast Ferrari or Mclaren speeds yet.
Electric car companies believe they will soon be able to close this gap. 
In fact, the Tesla Model S Plaid already claims a top speed of 200+ mph, but independent testing suggests it is closer to 170 mph.
This is about the same as the Lucid Air Dream Edition (top speed 168 mph), and a bit faster than the Porsche Taycan Turbo S (162 mph), but far behind the fastest commercially available ICE cars. The Porsche 918 Spyder for example, can reach 220 mph on the track. 
The bottom line: EVs are certainly quicker at accelerating than gas cars, but they still have a way to go before they can claim to be faster.
MORE: Lotus is Preparing an EV—And It's Very Fast
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