Automotive

This Is What It’s Like To Take The World’s Cheapest EV To The Track

Those of us who drive cars with significant amounts of power will be familiar with the unrelenting Call of the Track. It’s a powerful, unwavering urge one gets after holding back from unleashing your car’s full power on public roads. It’s a yearning for freedom, for speed, for releasing the unbridled, unconstrained power lurking ever-present under your right foot.

It’s the feeling I’ve been getting from my 1.1 horsepower Changli ever since the moment it arrived, and I’m thrilled to say I finally got the chance to take these 800 pounds of Red Menace out to the track and really open her up. It was every bit as thrilling as you’re imagining.

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Illustration for article titled This Is What Its Like To Take The Worlds Cheapest EV To The Track

Photo: Motorsports 4 the Masses

I was able to do this thanks to the good people at Motorsports 4 the Masses, who noticed a passing mention I made in another Changli post about wanting to take it autocrossing. They reached out and offered me a spot at their next track event in Franklin, North Carolina.

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This is what refueling looked like

This is what refueling looked like
Photo: Motorsport 4 the Masses

Motorsports 4 the Masses is a great organization, dedicated to reducing the painfully high barrier-to-entry typicalof competitive motorsports to something pretty much anyone can experience. They set up track events that are more than just autocrossing, as the courses are larger and multiple cars can be running at once.

If you have a car and any urge to try driving it in some way that’s actually more about fun than getting anywhere — and you’re around the Carolinas or Virginia — I strongly suggest checking them out. They’ve got it all figured out, and it’s a blast.


Illustration for article titled This Is What Its Like To Take The Worlds Cheapest EV To The Track

Photo: Jason Torchinsky

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Oh, and they also made me a custom door number, which is achingly beautiful.

They were able to work out times for me to take to the track in the Changli between regular competitor sessions, since the Changli has, at an absolute minimum, less than a hundredth the horsepower of the other cars and runs about a quarter to a third as fast as everyone else, at least.

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Illustration for article titled This Is What Its Like To Take The Worlds Cheapest EV To The Track

Photo: Motorsports 4 the Masses

The track was 0.44 miles per lap, and my first run took me right about 1:43, giving me an average speed of just over 15 mph. That’s not shocking for the Changli, but I felt we could do better.

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I drove with my foot pretty flat to the floor the entire time because that’s just the way you drive the Changli, always and everywhere. You go to the grocery store, you’re flooring it. You go to the track, same thing. The accelerator pedal is really better thought of as an on/off switch.


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Photo: Jason Torchinsky

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So that meant I needed to learn the track better, take corners faster, that kind of thing. To do that, I did a bunch of fast laps in Motorsports 4 the Masses’ own stripped-down Miata racecar along with one of their expert drivers, a man who races a restored factory-team Mazda 323.

I learned the track a bit better, and took that knowledge back to the Changli. I also realized that when 20 mph is about the best speed you can hope for, the best line around the track isn’t necessarily the ideal racing line, but the shortest line. It’s more about cutting distance than dialing up speed.

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I got to use this great vintage tire gauge a friend found for me, so that was fun
Photo: Jason Torchinsky

That said, I was also a bit more prepared for how tippy the Changli felt in the corners, though importantly, it never actually tipped over, which any pro racer will tell you is a great feature. I think in the second round I could trust the car enough to keep my foot buried even when everything felt like it was going to topple.

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As a result of the practice and on-site training, my second attempt was much better: 1:36, which comes to an average speed of a blistering 16.5 mph, peaking at a face-melting 20 mph. Hot damn.


Illustration for article titled This Is What Its Like To Take The Worlds Cheapest EV To The Track

Photo: Motorsports 4 the Masses

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I did technically pass a Mustang on the track, too, and it doesn’t matter why or what was going on, so stop trying to ruin that for me.

After the day’s racing, I let pretty much anyone who wanted a go in the Changli to have one — four healthy-sized American men even all got in at once and it drove. Watching everyone have a blast in this ridiculous thing made me realize that a Spec Changli series with around 15 to 20 of these things on the track would be an absolute, low-danger blast.

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Kind of like karting, but cheaper and easier! And all-weather!

I feel like this is a grand victory, and now that I know what the Changli platform is capable of, my desire to get a bit more power out of the car has strengthened along with an urge to try another track day. I think if I can do a motor swap to get something like three to five horsepower, I’ll have a real monster on my hands, and I bet I could do, like, a 1:20 or 1:15 lap.

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Illustration for article titled This Is What Its Like To Take The Worlds Cheapest EV To The Track

Photo: Motorsports 4 the Masses

Holy crap, that will be intoxicating.

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