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Student-built electric car sets world land speed record of 155.8 mph


October 5, 2011

The Electric Blue streamliner built by BYU students now holds the world land speed record in the "E1" class

The Electric Blue streamliner built by BYU students now holds the world land speed record in the "E1" class

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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.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Speed and acceleration has never been the problem with electric vehicles; range, recharge time, total battery life, and cost are.


A fantastic legacy to leave.

Andrew Kennedy

good to go out on top!


What was learned? How can this be applied to a production EV? After 7 years and all these man hours & dollars are we closer a practical car? How? That\'s what I want to know.


No hard data. No motor specs. No battery specs. No controller specs. Pretty lame.


for more about specs on the car go to byustreamliner.com That is our official webpage. For more pics go to this link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/byuelectricbluestreamliner/pool/

Chance Hales

@voluntaryist : Producing a production car in a University isn\'t the point, the point is to train as many young engineers as possible in electric car design and construction principles. Then, those young engineers bring that experience to the automotive trade, or start companies of their own building electric cars.

I think that our approach to electric cars is limited by outdated principles. The mass of the vehicles is a limiting factor, because if electric road vehicles were lighter, many design problems would be solved. Alot of the mass comes in with safety aspects - electric cars must be capable of using the same roads as a 2 ton SUV, for example. A low-slung, light weight electric car would be annihilated by a high up heavy road vehicle; an SUV driver wouldn\'t be able to even see a low slung vehicle from their high driving position. So, sooner or later, a choice or a compromise must be made. It\'s an old argument, but SUVs should be left to the purpose for which they were designed - on/off road rural vehicles. They have no place in a city or urbanised environment. How they\'ve come to used as \"family\" commuter vehicles, I\'ll never know.

Conor Brannigan


SUV\'s become the defacto family vehicle when states and municipalities started to get lazy and stingy with road repairs that the so called \"urbanised environment\" became rougher than a Rocky Mountain trail.

Knowledge Thirsty
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