There has only been one electric F1 style go kart place in the the Boston area for about 5-ish years and several gas power kart facilities of varying quality for more than 10 years. I’ve always shit on the electric karts; the one place that did them before has a small track, restrictive power levels based on some arbitrary judgment of skill by the track workers and the karts simply didn’t drive anywhere close to how a gas kart drives.

K1 Speed is a nationwide chain that I’ve heard of before and almost tried while visiting family in Phoenix, just ran out of time. When I found out they where electric karts I was kind of bummed, but still willing to try it. Maybe the K1 approach to karting is different? K1 Speed just opened two facilities in MA, one on the North Shore and one on the South shore and they’ve been advertising the crap out of it locally, which piqued my interest again.

It’s located in a converted warehouse in an industrial park right off I-93, so also being less than 20 mins from my house was a bonus. Walking inside it was very nice, but it’s also brand new. Very glamorous, with flashing colored lights, flat screens, tons of racing paraphernalia all over the walls. They are clearly aiming the local F1 Boston chain, which has one massive bespoke indoor facility with elevation changes and equally impressive outdoor facility.

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A friend was in town for the holidays that I used to go karting with all the time, so I met him and some other mutual friends to give the place a try. What really convinced me is that they had already tried it and liked it. So, at this point my expectations were rising.

Check in was easy, all computerized and you couldn’t beat the prices. I’m not sure if it was intro pricing, but it was $19 a race and a $6 “license” fee (this covers helmets and head socks if you don’t have your own, but you still have to pay it if you use your own helmet). So, for $55 dollars I got three races. You can also bank unused races and use them at K1 facilities around the country.

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KI has two tracks, one is really short, about a 15sec lap and I think mostly used for juniors. The larger track that we got to race on was a 23 sec average I would say and each race was about 20 laps. I wasn’t counting, but the races didn’t feel too short. It also appears, but I didn’t have a chance to ask that both tracks could be combined for some super track.

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I should have used my Go Pro for one of the races, I forgot to ask it was OK, which it seemed to be, I saw one person using an action cam as I was leaving. These are pictures of another person I know who was racing.

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What about the electric karts ? You say.

Well first of all, a race is not as quiet as you might think, while not as loud as 10-12 4 cycle karts at full throttle inside an enclosed space. The damn electric karts are still pretty loud, surprisingly loud. Think the loudest electric R/C car possible and there are 10-12 of them running at the same time. Thats’s the best way I can describe it and the sound helps when driving it. When your in a gas kart you get hear the engine come up through the power band. For me being able to listen to the revs is one of the things I rely on when driving a kart. The K1 karts give you a good sense of the motor “spooling” up. Then there’s the torque, glorious instant torque. Electric karts for me required a total shift in my driving style. With an gas kart I try to carry a lot of momentum and minimize the time spent braking, keeping the RPMs high and the kart in it’s power band. Essentially like racing any real car. The electric karts with instant torque are a little different, the brakes are just as touchy as a gas kart, but the throttle is nearly instant. Coming into a corning, braking (gas and brake do not work at the same time in the K1 karts) to weight transfer to the front and then dipping into the throttle took some getting used to. My first race was a lot of horrible understeer, front end skipping across the concrete, hot mess driving and absolutely not smooth. Then the light bulb went off, with instant torque and not bogging from a gas engine if you let the revs drop. I could brake late and hard to weight transfer, get the kart pointed where I need to go and lay into the throttle for exiting the tighter turns, Then with some practice I was able to get the throttle to modulate the way I wanted during turns that didn’t really need braking. This netted me some fast lap times and considering the fast time of the week was a 20.758 and I’d only done three races, ending the last race with a 21.162 wasn’t too shabby.

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All in all, I give it the thumbs up. I wasn’t sold on electric karting till racing at K1, they’ve managed to use an electric kart that once you get used to it, can be driven really fast and really smooth. I had just never got that before with electric karts. Maybe a bonus, maybe not, you don’t smell like gas and exhaust after racing. If you live in the Boston area or near another K1 give it a try, it’s definitely worth an afternoon.