A few years back, Ariel released a V8, four cylinder car called the Atom. When the car was tested on the Top Gear test track, it went right to the top of the leader board and stayed there for a couple of seasons. The reason the car was so fast had to do with its unique, stripped back, racing-car style design. To look at, it was little more than a buggy, but with a seriously powerful engine under the bonnet.
The Atom was a racing driver’s fantasy. It had just about the fastest acceleration of any road-legal vehicle on the market, and thanks to its low-profile shape and fat tyres, it was able to corner as well as a Formula 3000 car, but without all the usual rigmarole of warming up the tyres first.
Ariel Takes Advantage Of Electrification
Things, however, have moved on in the world of car technology. When the team was designing the original Atom, they would have laughed at the suggestion that their next car would be electric. But thanks to manufacturers like Tesla, electric car technology is coming of age, and it’s weaving its way into all kinds of different models. A couple of years ago, for instance, we got our first wave of hybrid-electric supercars from major manufacturers including Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. Then, just last month, Tesla announced that it was now selling its much-anticipated Model 3 on forecourts all over the world. Other manufacturers have been keen to get on the electric bandwagon too, with some, like Chevrolet, having fully-electric cars already on sale in the US and elsewhere.
But why is all this happening, and what does it have to do with Ariel? Essentially, it’s because of the superiority of electric technology over traditional gasoline cars. Electric cars, unlike gas cars, have around a hundred times fewer moving parts. In addition, there’s no difference in power across the range of torque. Put your foot down on the “gas” in an electric car, and it’ll accelerate at a constant rate, no matter what speed you’re going. There’s no gears, no rev counting, and no engine management system (in the traditional sense) either. And that means an altogether simpler technology.
What’s more, electric motors have the added advantage of being more modular and able to put out more power per unit weight. No, the conventional electric motors you find in electric cars probably can’t put out the same energy as a V12, but you can have more of them in a single vehicle, and this opens up infinite possibilities.
Ariel, therefore, has decided to change tack. Instead of opting for a gas motor – something which can be unpleasant for drivers with open-top vehicles like the Atom – they’ve chosen to go with electric motors for their new car. The new car, dubbed the Hipercar (the name will probably change in due course), is slated to come with four separate electric motors powering each of the four wheels independently. Combined, the four engines will generate more than 1,180 BHP – that’s more than the original Bugatti Veyron but under half the weight.
The Performance Of The Upcoming Hipercar
The performance of the original Atom was pretty scary. The car developed around 310 BHP and with the addition of a charge cooler, could hit 350. The car, therefore, could accelerate to 60 mph in a little under 4.3 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars in the world when the second version was released in 2005. The top speed was only 152 mph, but that didn’t matter because the car was never designed as a drag racer. It’s owner wanted to drive around racing tracks, and do it quickly.
With more than three times the power of the original, the new Hipercar comes with some ridiculous acceleration specifications. According to Auto Week Magazine, the Hipercar will beat out even a souped up Tesla Model S P100D in a drag race, going from 0 to 60 in a neck-breaking 2.4 seconds. The car will then go on to 100 mph in just 3.8 seconds, still half a second faster than the original Atom got to 60.
How Ariel willpower all of these motors with such a small frame remains to be seen. But it is expected that the company will do the same as Tesla and use all available floor space for the battery pack. The Hipercar is slated to arrive with a 750-volt, 56-kWh lithium-ion battery, similar to those found in most electric vehicles, but whether it will last as long as owners would like remains a mystery. The current top of the line Tesla Model S comes with a 100 kWh battery pack. That gives the car about a 300-mile range on a good run. Although the Hipercar from Ariel will have a battery with about half the capacity, it may manage to achieve more than half the range, if they can keep the weight low enough. Thanks to advances in chassis technology, and the native weight-saving properties of electric motors, Ariel may be able to deliver suitable driving ranges for those worried about range anxiety on the company’s new vehicle. Put the pedal to the metal, though, and electric cars use up their battery just as quickly as gas cars guzzle their gasoline. On a full charge, it’s unlikely that the Hipercar will be able to do much more than about 50 miles under racing conditions. And at the type of speeds that car is expected to be capable of, those fifty miles are going to fly by.
Ariel has announced that it won’t be going down the carbon-fiber route with its new car. Part of the company’s philosophy right from the start is that it wants to be a driver’s brand, not a luxury sports brand. The original Atom, despite its performance, only cost around $45,000 but delivered better performance than the $1 million Koenigsegg hypercar. The new Ariel is likely to be similarly cheap because, again, the company is opting for a no-frills experience. The weight saving from going from aluminum to carbon on a car with such a small chassis is negligible, and so the company hasn’t bothered, giving drivers the option to drive a super cheap hypercar instead.
What about safety? Given the Mclaren supercar recently in a wreck on the roads in Britain, it’s clear that fast cars are a risk to their drivers. And the new Ariel Hipercar looks set to become the fastest car ever made. The original Atom scored pretty low on safety features. It had no Anti-lock brakes, no airbags and no stability controls whatsoever. Granted, it perhaps didn’t need stability controls so much because of its unique, low-to-the-ground design, but to say that the Atom was safe was, frankly, untrue. Getting into an Atom provided little more protection than hopping on the back of a motorbike.
Early indications are that the new car from Ariel will be a little more substantial than the old. The company says that there will be more paneling in the new car and more enclosed surfaces. In short, we may get something that more closely resembles an actual car than a go-kart, though this remains to be seen.
What’s more, the new car will apparently be able to do all the things a regular car can do. An Ariel spokesman has claimed that you’ll be able to “cross continents,” go to the store and race around a track in the new car, making it truly versatile and not just “road legal.”
When Will We Get To See It In Action?
If the company can deliver, it will be a massive boon to the manufacturer. There’s certainly a latent demand out there for a car like the Atom, but which is more practical. From what we’ve heard so far, it looks like this is what customers are going to get, in addition to a car that is about twice as fast as the original.
When will the car be released? Ariel says that a small number of units will be ready by 2019. Full-scale production will commence in 2020. It’s still three years away, but this is a car that is surely going to fill up car enthusiast forums all over the internet. The Hipercar may be the final nail in the coffin for petrol supercars if they can get the marketing right.
Two versions of the new Hipercar, which stands for High-Performance Carbon Reduction, will be released. One will be the full, four-wheel drive 1,180 BHP car that has been making headlines all over the auto news. The other will be a stripped down, rear wheel drive version, developing more than 590 BHP from two engines. It is expected that the top speed of the car will be limited at around 160 mph. But speculation remains about how fast the car could actually go if the brakes were taken off. Estimates currently have it more than 220 mph, perhaps making it the fastest electric car ever made.
With fine-tuned control from each motor to the wheels, Ariel has more options to provide drivers with control than at any time in history. Let’s hope they do a good job of it.