A look at the PNE’s electrifying new rollercoaster

After months of anticipation, PlayLand's new ThunderVolt rollercoaster is ready for lauch. Cecilia Hua got to be one of the first to ride the new attraction, ahead of its official opening.

The PNE’s much-anticipated, newest thrill ride is ready for launch.

Ahead of its opening to public parkgoers on Saturday, CityNews was invited to ride the country’s newest “electric launch” coaster, the ThunderVolt, along with Vancouver city councillors and B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts, culture, and sport.

“The ThunderVolt is the fastest of its kind,” said Minister Lana Popham, who called herself a ‘coaster connoisseur’ while introducing the ride to press Friday morning. 

“Picture this: rocketing through a supernatural world filled with wild animals, stunning graphics, and lights that make the whole experience feel like a high-energy concert. It’s a thrill-packed adventure,” said Vancouver’s deputy mayor, Mike Klassen.

In less than a minute, the ThunderVolt thrusts you up a steep incline and then down an 18-meter drop before swooping around the rest of the track at 1.3 Gs of acceleration.

After his ride, Klassen said, “It’s the most intense 47 seconds I’ve ever had in my life. All of Vancouver is going to want to take this ride.”

“You get that bolt of speed right out of the gate, through a tunnel with cool neon lights, and then it takes you on a total trajectory. Literally, you go up, and then you go right down. And so you feel it, but it is exhilarating. It is a fantastic new ride,” said coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.

“I was so scared at the beginning, but then when you’re actually on there, it’s so exciting. And then, when you finish, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s even more excitement.’ Yeah, it’s amazing,” added coun. Lenny Zhou.

Built by the Italian coaster manufacturer, Zamperla, the ThunderVolt cost $18-million to construct. It stands in the place of the old “corkscrew” ride at Playland.

ThunderVolt powered by $1.2-million battery

The ThunderVolt’s name is no mistake. As electrifying as it is to ride, Thomas Chen, a project manager, says the coaster also draws a considerable amount of power to run. 

Rather than being powered by motors and chains and relying on gravity to deliver thrills, the new coaster gets its speed from an electric launch at the start of the ride. 

Chen says that the launch is powered by a $1.2-million battery that consumes more energy than the neighbourhood’s grid is able to produce in time.

“The battery takes power from the grid, right? And they charge up the ride. So within 15 seconds, we got enough power to push out the ride. It goes from zero to 70 [kilometres per hour] in two seconds. Hear all the screaming in the background? 1.3 Gs right off the bat,” said Chen.

He says the massive battery is stored in a small building beside the coaster’s opening tunnel, where a lot of engineering went into adding “four pairs of resistors” to protect the city’s power grid.

“The biggest challenge we had was not so much to power it but to stop the power from bleeding back to the grid. So we don’t fry the grid system,” said Chen.

He explains the coaster’s launcher knocking out a “50-block radius” is no longer a possibility, given its design.

“It’ll never happen. With our system in place, it’ll never happen.”

Instead, the surging will be left to the ThunderVolt’s riders, when it opens to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday.

—With files from Charlie Carey.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today