About ten years ago I realised I was a petrolhead and a treehugger – which was an interesting conflict
About ten years ago I realised I was a petrolhead and a treehugger – which was an interesting conflict. I was involved in a land speed record attempt for a car powered only by the wind. We named the car the Greenbird in a nod to Donald Campbell, the famous British speed merchant, who captured numerous records in his Bluebird. Our car was designed by British engineer Richard Jenkins, and looking at it today it could have come out of a more recent Star Wars film. In March 2009 we took the world land speed record hitting 126 mph on the dry lake bed of Ivanpah Lake in the USA.
We still hold that record.
Off the back of this I wanted a greener car myself and scoured the world for an electric one – there were none in the world. So I decided to build one. It was also to be a wind powered car, we would use the wind to make the electricity and thus have no emissions at all.
I assembled a team of Motorsport engineers – and set a challenging design brief, it had to have a speed of at least 100 mph, a 100 mile range and super car looks and handling. It had to be so because electric cars back then were stereotypically things that Noddy would drive or like Milk Floats – if you remember them. We wanted to smash that stereotype. And I think we did.
The Nemesis hit the road in 2010, to wide acclaim – it went as well as it looked. British F1 world champion Damon Hill took me for a spin around Brands Hatch in it – that was a wild ride. In 2012 we took it to Elvington airfield in Yorkshire to have a crack at the UK land speed record. In a two way one mile sprint we averaged 151mph – and that record still stands ten years later.
Our purpose was to capture hearts and minds to show the potential of electric cars – not about giving something up, but doing something differently and better. If you’ve never driven one you should try it, they have no gears, there is no automatic gearbox or any kind of lag. Power is always on and always at peak – every corner you exit like an F1 champion, perfectly poised. They are easy, fun, fast, quiet and clean. And super cheap to run.
Electric cars have arguably been enabled by the boom in mobile phones, which led to the development of better and cheaper Lithium Ion batteries. Ten years later the technology has moved on again. We’re looking at re powering the Nemesis with super capacitors, something that has the potential to leap frog lithium Ion batteries in terms of performance.
And maybe we’ll pop back to Elvington and revisit that record.