Honda eGX Racing Kart Concept First Drive: Karting’s electric future looks bright
GREENCASTLE, Ind. — It’s not every day we get to review a serious go-kart, but that day has officially come with the Honda eGX Racing Kart Concept. Yes, “e” stands for electric, as this go-kart concept is motivated by a pair of electric battery packs that power a single electric motor.
Most electric karts we’ve tried have been the ones you’d find at K1 Speed locations, or other go-karting businesses of the sort. They get to a top speed of around 45 mph and drive decently well, but after driving this Honda kart, going back to any other go-karting spot is going to be a bit of a letdown. Perhaps even more impressive than the way it drives is the modular design and engineering that went into the battery pack system, though.
Every eGX Racing Kart Concept gets its power from two 1.314-kilowatt-hour battery packs, which Honda says are good for 35-45 minutes of racing. Housed in pods on either side of the driver, they can be swapped out (seen happening below) for fresh batteries in seconds. Each battery pack weighs 22.7 pounds, and while that makes them a touch heavy, handles on the packs allow for easy maneuvering when carrying them around or installing them in karts. We personally witnessed how speedily it can be done — we’re talking seconds here, not minutes. Fully charging a pack from 0-100% takes about five hours, so it’s best to have spares on hand, but the idea behind these battery packs is that they’ll be useable in more than just this go-kart. For example, future electric products from Honda — like generators, electric lawn products, etc. — would be able to draw power from these same units.
As for the kart itself, Honda is using a proprietary electric motor putting out an undisclosed number of ponies with a Honda Performance Development (HPD) racing software control module. It has a Parolin chromoly frame, alloy wheels and a 7.6-inch brake rotor. Honda says that all-in, the kart weighs about 230 pounds.
Behind the wheel of the kart, what hits you right away is the electric motor and its tuning. Most karts at casual karting venues are pretty conservative with their torque delivery, which is good for beginners that might instantly spin if given full torque right away. The HPD software is notably more aggressive in its torque delivery, and while it’s still not enough to spin you in a circle from a stop, the acceleration and pedal response is closer to that instantaneous giddy-up you expect from an electric motor. The eGX accelerates up to its approximately 45-mph top speed quickly, then changes direction with all the alacrity you’d expect from a top-tier go-kart chassis.
Braking was scarcely necessary on the little racetrack Honda set up for our testing, but controlling the rear end via light brushes with the pedal and little lifts off the accelerator was consistent and predictable. The kart’s balance is spectacular, which can partly be attributed to the smart location of those heavy battery packs directly in the center next to the driver. The seat holds you in tight, and the steering wheel is in an agreeable enough position. It’s full of buttons and a screen to monitor the kart, too.
All of these qualities make the eGX a riot to drive on a karting course. You sit compressed in the racing bucket, and since it’s a kart, every last crack and cranny of the road at Putnam Park Road Course is felt through the body. All the inputs are weighty, and the throttle pedal is especially lovely to use, as it responds to small inputs you make to better your line mid-corner in a predictable and easy-to-learn manner. It’s a little smile machine in the best way, and it’s easily the most fun we’ve ever had in a go-kart.
A bright future lies ahead of us in the land of electric karts if this experience is anything to go by. This type of battery-swapping technology and powertrain tech is merely a concept at this point, per Honda, but we can’t wait to see what comes into production. The world of karting is where race car drivers get their start, and as more and more electric racing series come online, it’s vital that newcomers get into electric go-karts that are worth their muster. This one is, and we can’t wait to pilot it again someday.