Firm teams up with NASA for electric progress

Driving into the NASA Ames Research Centre at Moffett Field can be fairly intimidating. After all, it’s a facility where world-class studies are being held in the information technology, aerospace and aeronautics research and engineering fields. The security checkpoint does little to lighten the mood.

But driving up to the KleenSpeed Technologies Inc. office located inside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility is another story. It’s enthralling.

Established in 2007, it was founded by Tim Collins.

“We started out with the idea to build an electric race car,” the KleenSpeed president says. “We did not know we would build the world’s fastest electric race car!”

The EV-X11 is based on the chassis of the state-of-the-art West Race Cars American LeMans IMSA Lite L2 sports racer. It was then modified and outfitted with a proprietary KleenSpeed EV System, including power controller, charging system, battery packs and ancillary components.

It can reach speeds of over 260 km/h, and the four KleenSpeed Battery Packs powering the vehicle produce 200 horsepower and 300 lbs.-ft of torque. The EV-X11 has a curb weight of 632 kg and can last about 10 minutes at full power before it needs to be recharged.

For the third year in a row, the zero-emissions vehicle has taken home the top prize at The ReFuel EV Challenge, and also managed to set a new lap record for EVs at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

While it’s not the only electric race car prototype hitting the tracks – Nissan has a race car prototype version of their production-ready Leaf – it is definitely creating a lot of buzz.

Inside the Silicon Valley-based company’s walls resides the record-setting prototype, but more importantly, the reason for its creation and the mantra behind KleenSpeed – to take its engineering know-how and advanced systems and translate it into reliable, affordable and accessible EV transportation to the masses.

The driving force behind the company’s R&D is Dante Zeviar, executive vice president and chief technology officer.

Saying Zeviar is passionate about his work is an understatement. He lives and breathes EV, and that translates directly into his work.

But the attitude toward green technology is shared by the whole team at KleenSpeed.

“Everybody here is in love with cars,” Zeviar notes. “We love racing. We love automobiles. We love the automotive history. But we recognize the impact that transportation infrastructure has on the plan-et and we understand the short-comings of cars today.”

As we’re talking, he mentions that “hybrids are gaining a lot of popularity and they seem to be really catching on. The next step after hybrids is EVs”

But why build a race car, then build a commuter vehicle for the masses?

“Everything we learn on the race-track transfers directly to the commercial sector,” Zeviar points out.

And Collins adds, “We got into NASA because we stress all the components of the race car, which is what they do. They stress all their components but they have to understand when components are going to fail before they put it into a space shuttle, space station or satellite.”

That’s exactly what KleenSpeed does with their “moving laboratory.” They push the limits of the EV systems, take the data they’ve collected, and see where it can be improved on and implemented.

An example of the adoption of such engineering came about when they converted a 1990 Mazda Miata into a real world EV they named the ‘Eiata.’ Not only has this iconic roadster now become a zero emissions vehicle, it has also logged over 11,000 kilometres without any issues. Granted, it’s not as fast as the EV-X11, but is a lot more practical for the roads.

The Eiata can travel upwards of 150 km/h and has a range of about 112 kilometres per charge.

The transformation of Miata to Eiata took roughly nine weeks to complete and a lot of sleepless nights. Nevertheless, all the hard work paid off when it won first Place in the EV Conversion Class At ReFuel 2011.

While at KleenSpeed’s R&D epicentre I had the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the EV-X11. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take it out for a test run but we did fire it up. At first, it was as quiet as can be. But when it was ‘revved,’ the predominant noise came from the chain that connected the motor to the differentials.

However, I did get the chance to take the Eiata out for a ride. Needless to say, it was quite different from the Mazda MX-5 cup cars I had recently driven on the Laguna Seca racetrack, but was a cool (and quiet) experience, nonetheless.

Electric race cars and Eiatas aside, KleenSpeed recently completed Phase 1 of their 2014 KAR Concept 2+2, which is the first in a series of planned-for-production EVs based on the KAR Platform technologies.

As an EV lover and supporter, I’m excited to see where KleenSpeed and the other auto manufacturers implement their zero-emissions technologies in the coming years.

For more information on Kleen-Speed Technologies Inc. visit

The fastest electric vehicle prototype in the world is KleenSpeed’s EV-X11, which can reach speeds of over 260 km-h.
Photograph by: Alexandra Straub, The Province