An electrathon is a three or four wheeled electric vehicle, somewhat similar in overall appearance to a Go-Kart, but powered by an electric motor which runs off batteries. Electrathons are raced under rules which specify matters such as length and width of the vehicles (12 feet long and 4 feet wide maximum) and total weight of batteries (64 pounds for lead-acid batteries, a few more for gel cell battereis), with the weight of the drivers being ballasted to 180 pounds.. Other regulations concern safety features such as braking systems, roll bars, shut-off switches, etc.
Electrathon racing itself is a somewhat recent invention, first starting in Australia. The basic format is to determine which car can travel the furthest distance in one hours time within the limitations of battery weight and other factors mentioned above. The main design problem is posed by the fact that fast speeds drain the batteries rapidly resulting in the car not being able to continue in motion for the entire hour, so design teams must compromise speed in order to gain distance. The main desideratum is efficiency of both the machine and driving technique.
The relatively low cost of the electrathon racing has made the sport a popular activity for high school age students world-wide who learn skills related to design, problem-solving, teamwork, math, physics, and electricity.
At present, the world record for distance travelled in one hours time is around 45 miles.
Significant electrathon racing events in the Pacific Northwest include the Lacey Alternative Fueled Vehicles Fair, the Electrathon Grand Prix (held Memorial Day weekend in Portland, Oregon), and the Northwest Renewable Energy Festival in Walla Walla.