Student-built electric car sets world land speed record of 155.8 mph
By Darren Quick
October 5, 2011
Brigham Young University (BYU) students are celebrating after setting a new land speed record for an electric car in the "E1" (under 1,100 lbs/499 kg) class. The record of 155.8 mph (250.7 km/h) set by the "Electric Blue" streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah was averaged over the two required qualifying runs, one of which saw the car reach a speed of 175 mph (281.6 km/h). The record marks the end of a seven year quest by BYU students led by Perry Carter who, having just retired as an associate professor, gets to bow out on top.
With its long, slender shape and enclosed wheels to reduce air resistance, Electric Blue falls into the category of a streamliner. The BYU students modeled the vehicle's body using a wind tunnel program on a computer and custom built it using carbon fiber. The team says the aerodynamic body, in combination with the vehicle's lithium iron phosphate batteries helped the car reach its record-setting speeds.
The Electric Blue was piloted on its two runs by Utah Salt Flats Racing Association president, Jim Burkdoll, and they were certified by the Southern California Timing Association - Bonneville Nations, Inc.
The 155.8 mph time is record-setting rather than record-breaking as there were no prior certified speed runs for the lightweight "E1" class. This is because electric vehicles rely on heavy batteries and engineering a speedy vehicle that complied with the 1,100 pound weight restriction had proved difficult. However, previous unofficial records were in the 130 mph (209 km/h) ballpark, with the BYU team completing a qualifying run of 139 mph (223.7 km/h) last year, but failed to complete the second run when the car rolled, damaging its body.
To put the record in some kind of perspective, the Electric Blue's 155.8 mph record leaves the Tesla Roadster, with a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), in its wake and is just short of the 176.43 mph (283.9 km/h) record set by the Riches/Nelson E-Race electric motorcycle. The BYU team's effort also outdoes the 161.5 mph (260 km/h) top speed of the TMG EV P001, which broke the lap record for an electric vehicle at the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in August. Although the Electric Blue, with its one inch of ground clearance and extremely wide turning circle, would likely struggle to negotiate the turns on the legendary Nordschleife (northern loop).
Of the roughly 130 BYU students that have worked on the streamliner program over its seven years, about half have been manufacturing engineering technology majors, about 40 percent mechanical engineering majors, and the remainder coming from various other disciplines. While many worked on the car as part of an annual capstone course, most were unpaid volunteers.
"This is a wonderful closure to 31 years of teaching at BYU and many projects," Carter said after the record was certified. "But this is the one that takes the cake. I'm done."
The BYU team's record-setting attempt can be seen in the video below.
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