Want a High-Performance Car? Think EV

Acceleration, torque, and speed are convincing more drivers to switch

Ford Mach e shown driving by a lake with mountains in the background.


One of the most pervasive myths about electric vehicles (EVs) is that they somehow don’t perform as well as gasoline-powered vehicles. Performance is a complicated subject, but EVs perform as well or better than their fossil-fueled counterparts in some key areas.

High-performance EVs boast blisteringly quick acceleration, hit impressive top speeds, and exhibit excellent handling as well. Gasoline-powered vehicles offer stiff competition and benefit from over 100 years of accumulated research and development, but this is one race that might be tighter than you expect.

How Do EVs Stack Up to Gasoline-Powered Vehicles?

Electric and gas-powered vehicles come in lower-performance budget models, high-performance luxury models, and everything in between. There are many more gas vehicles on the road, which means there are more low-performance and high-performance gas models than electric vehicles, but electric vehicles have an advantage at both ends of the spectrum.

The one thing that helps EVs stack up favorably against gasoline-powered vehicles is that electric motors can provide instant torque, which you can’t get out of a gas engine that’s connected to a transmission. That means when you push the accelerator in an electric vehicle, it starts moving almost instantly, while it takes a moment for a gas-powered vehicle to get rolling.

That explains why electric vehicles exhibit such impressive acceleration in the real world, with some hitting 0 to 60 MPH in less than two seconds. The quickest gas-powered supercars in the world can come close to that, but it’s a very tight race indeed. Every EV benefits from this as well, not just the high-end models.

Beyond pure acceleration, you also need to consider top speed, handling, and other factors when comparing overall performance. Electric vehicles don’t always stack up as favorably in those areas, but it’s a case-by-case basis. Some EVs are faster than others, and some high-end EVs provide excellent handling while others miss the mark, just like gas-powered vehicles.

Are EVs Really as Fast as Gas Cars?

Electric vehicles do have an advantage on acceleration, but that’s only part of the equation. While the fastest EVs are quicker off the line than the fastest gas-powered cars, acceleration and top speed are different beasts.

If you look at the highest measured speeds from the fastest cars globally, gas-powered cars have hit tops speeds above 300 MPH, while the quickest production EV tops out at around 200MPH.

EV hypercars could theoretically match the fastest gasoline vehicles in the world in the future, and test vehicles have already reached top speeds of around 260MPH. Still, these are all speeds that the average driver is unlikely to ever experience in the first place.

When you look at real-world performance on real-world roads, EVs offer better acceleration and more than enough speed to keep pace.

Have Any EVs Won Races?

Electric cars aren’t new, and they have a history that’s just as long as gasoline-powered cars. An electric vehicle won one of the first automobile races to take place on a track in the United States. By some accounts, it was the first such race. Two electric vehicles competed in that race against a slate of gas-powered cars, and the Riker Electric Vehicle Company came away with the win.

Since that first race more than a century ago, gas-powered vehicles went on to dominate the roads while electric vehicles faded into relative obscurity. Due to the stringent regulations that most races have regarding what type of vehicles can enter, relatively few modern electric vehicles have competed against gas-powered vehicles. There have been a handful of exceptions, though, and EVs have won modern races against gas-powered vehicles.

In 2015, electric cars took the top two spots in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb unlimited division. This division allows just about anything to enter, as long as the vehicle meets safety inspections, so this is one race where EVs can compete with gas-powered vehicles head to head.

A gas-powered vehicle came back to win the following year, but the second and third-place finishers were EVs. Since then, electric vehicles have continued to compete and often win as well.

In addition to the rare instances where EVs can race directly against gas-powered vehicles, there are many all-electric racing series. These races pit EV against EV in various configurations and categories, leading to new developments and breakthroughs in the field of electric motorsports. 

Do Affordable EVs Perform Well Too?

While the performance of high-end electric vehicles is easy to see, the fact is that more affordable EVs have many of the same benefits. The same quick acceleration that allows EVs to boast the lowest 0-60 times around trickles down to even the most modest of affordable family sedans.

For example, the all-electric Chevy Bolt hatchback has a 0 to 60 MPH time of six seconds. Another similar vehicle, the gas-powered Chevy Bolt, takes more than 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60 MPH. So while affordable EVs don’t perform up to the same standard as expensive EVs, they still stand up very well to similar gas-powered vehicles in the same category.

How to Pick a High-Performance EV

If you want an EV that performs as well or better than gas-powered vehicles in the same category, then you don’t need to think about performance at all. Look at things like passenger and cargo space, battery capacity and range, and the maximum rate of charge, and you’ll typically end up with a vehicle that performs as well, or better than, any gas-powered vehicle in the same category.

If performance is your main concern, then you’ll be looking more at the high end of things, so you’ll need to have more room in your budget. You’ll still need to consider things like battery capacity and range if you plan on using the vehicle as a daily driver and not just to flex its power, but you’ll also want to pay attention to the 0 to 60 MPH time, top speed, and other factors like handling.

The Future of EV Performance

Electric vehicles have been around as long as gas-powered vehicles, but they’ve primarily existed in the shadows. Nearly all of the research and development time and money has gone into gas-powered vehicles, and all of that engineering output is on display in the vehicles you see on the road and race track today.

With the rise in popularity of electric vehicles and more of them on the road with each passing year, developments and advancements are likely to speed up with the same intensity of a high-performance EV jumping off the line. The focus is already on EVs in races like the Pikes Peak Unlimited Hill Climb, and a variety of automakers have set their sights on the high-performance market.

Gas-powered vehicles have EVs beat in top speeds right now, but future EVs are likely to close that gap. For example, the Tesla Model S topped out at about 160 MPH and led the production EV pack for a while, until the recently-released Tesla Model S Plaid blew right past that with a top speed of over 200 MPH.

Other experimental EVs have taken that even further, like the Rimac Nevera, with a top speed of 258 MPH. As these and other EVs begin to take over the high-performance market, many of those advancements are likely to lead to improvements in affordable EV performance as well. 

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