Nissan LEAF is world’s fastest car… in reverse

Terry Grant sets reverse-driving record at Goodwood

By Will Dron on July 3, 2012 2:59 PM

Electric car technology isn’t that complicated, really. Connect a battery pack via an electronic control unit (ECU) to an electric motor, then connect the motor to the wheels.

You don’t really need a gearbox because, unlike a petrol or a diesel engine, an electric motor can deliver maximum torque (twisting force) from zero revs – you just put your foot down and the car will keep accelerating up to its maximum speed.

Putting an electric car with no gears into reverse is thus a simple case of the ECU telling the motor to spin in the opposite direction and, as a result, electric cars have the potential to travel as fast backwards as they can go forwards.

The main drawback with this is that, because the front wheels of a car do the steering, they’re really rather difficult to control at 90mph backwards. Sensibly, EV makers therefore electronically limit the speed of the car in reverse.

However, at last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, Nissan decided to switch off that limiter on a LEAF and have a go at setting the record as the fastest car backwards over a measured mile.

Stunt driver Terry Grant, who last year drove a Nissan Juke up the hill on two wheels, was the obvious choice to sit in the driver’s seat. Grant set his first record on the Friday of the event before smashing his time on both Saturday and Sunday. His final time was 1min 37.02sec over the mile, at an impressive average speed of 55mph.

“There were times I wasn’t sure I was coming or going,” mused Grant. “However, thanks to the LEAF’s low centre of gravity – the batteries are an integral part of the car’s floor – the car is extremely stable, no matter which direction it’s travelling. The only complaint I have is slight neck ache from constantly looking over my shoulder!”

As well as the reverse record in the road-going LEAF, Nissan also set a hill record for an electric vehicle (forwards), with FIA GT1 world champion Michael Krumm setting a time of 60.18sec in the race-prepared Nissan LEAF NISMO RC.