Archive for August 10th, 2012


electric bullets

Post from Harry Hutchinson:

Harry Hutchinson

I checked up on another of my favorite teams a few days ago. They specialize in designing and building electric cars that can travel faster than 300 miles per hour. So far, they have done it three times, and now they’re going for 400 mph.

The coolest thing about it is that, although they are the most successful team in the top class for electric cars, none of them does this for a living, except for the driver.

They call themselves the Buckeye Bullet Land Speed Racing Team. They are mostly undergraduates working in the Center for Automotive Research at The Ohio State University. Their faculty advisor, Giorgio Rizzoni is director of the center and also is an ASME member.

The original Buckeye Bullet set a U.S. land speed record of about 315 mph in 2004. At the time, the driver, Roger Schroer, joined an elite list of about 60 people in the 300 MPH Chapter of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. The magazine covered that story in the December 2004 issue.

That car is currently being restored and will be shipped to the Crawford Auto Museum in Cleveland sometime next year.

After 2004, the team worked with Ford Motor Co. and Ballard Power Systems to develop Buckeye Bullet 2, a racecar powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. When we spoke to David Cooke, the current team leader and one of four grad students on the racing team, he told us the team took a 250 kilowatt power train designed for a commercial bus and adapted it to 600 kW.

According to Cooke, everything from the elaborate electrical harness to provisions for enriched oxygen made the car exceedingly complex.

It was racing three years before it broke 300 mph. It set a record of 130 mph early on, but Cooke said that, record or no, the team wasn’t happy about being so slow.

Buckeye Bullet 2 set a new international record of just under 303 mph in 2009 to become the fastest car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

After another sponsor, a European automaker named Venturi, came in, the same car was refitted with batteries and dubbed Buckeye Bullet 2.5. It went back to Bonneville in 2010 and set another international record of about 307 mph, the average speed over a “flying mile.” The car’s top speed measured during the course was 320 mph.

There are different rules and conditions for the national and international records, so Buckeye Bullet 1’s U.S. record and BB2’s international record stand independently.

Cooke is pursuing a master’s degree under Rizzoni and his work will revolve around the design of the next vehicle, Buckeye Bullet 3. The goal is to develop a car that will exceed 400 mph. BB3 will carry lithium ion batteries from A123 Systems. The batteries, as well as other parts of the power train, will be non-production versions of cutting-edge technology, Cooke said. Wheel bearings, for instance, will need to hold up at 7,000 rpm.

The team hopes to have that car ready for next August.

Venturi has a focus on electric vehicles, and setting international speed records was among several “global challenges” that the automaker has set for itself.

Another of the challenges is my favorite because it involves a road trip and even has a reference to Czech beer. The idea was to have a team drive a Citroen truck with a Venturi all-electric drive from Shanghai to Paris. Near the end of the trip, they stop at a conference in Prague and pay their fee in cases of beer.

The fastest so far that any car has traveled on land is a record set in 1997 by an RAF pilot, Andy Green, driving Thrust SST, which was propelled by a turbofan engine. Green broke the sound barrier at 763 miles an hour.

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

August 2012

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