Electric car breaks speed record

National mark surpassed by Ohio State research group

By Michelle Payne, The Lantern - OSU's Student Newspaper
Media Credit: Courtesy of Center for Automotive Research

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The Ohio State University's electrical car, the Buckeye Bullet, gave new meaning to the word fast on Saturday when it broke the United States record for the fastest speed achieved by an electric vehicle.

The Bullet broke the old record of 251.3 miles per hour with a speed of 257 mph.

The vehicle was built by a team of 12 OSU graduate and undergraduate engineering students who traveled to Wendover, Utah to compete in the annual "Speed Week" held every October.

The competition was conducted on a seven-mile stretch of the Bonneville Salt flats, which is a 5,000 square mile lake bed.

Most of the team left for the competition on Oct. 13, traveling by plane to the event. Two of the team members, Ryan Somogye, a first-year graduate student in mechanical engineering, and Todd Rodrick, a senior in mechanical engineering, left earlier. The pair departed OSU on Oct. 11 for a 35-hour drive, pulling a trailer carrying the car and all of its equipment.

"It's a 35-hour ride if you drive all the way through," Somogye said. "We were just taking turns sleeping in the back seat."

After the initial feat of getting the vehicle to Utah, the team began preparation for the competition.

"We had to qualify first before we could actually go for the record," said Giorgio Rizzoni, faculty adviser for the Buckeye Bullet Team and professor of mechanical engineering at OSU.

In order to qualify to race for a new record, the car had to break the previous record. The Bullet succeeded in qualifying on its first attempt on Oct. 16 with a time of 261.2 mph, but the record was not official yet.

Once the car qualified, it had to complete a second run the following day. During the second run, it had to break the same record it did in the qualifying run. The new record would then be official, but the team ran into some problems.

"The vehicles are kept overnight in an impound lot, and we were not allowed to make any modifications to them once we did the qualifying run. All we were allowed to do was charge the car's battery," Rizzoni said. "But the next morning when we got there, the battery was not working. Some of the battery strings had shorted and there was no time for us to make any changes."

The set back caused the car to miss breaking the record by less than a mile, which meant the car had to re-qualify again before making another attempt at the record.

Somogye, the electrical team leader, and his team repaired the battery using spare parts and by 2 p.m. the car was ready for another qualifying run, Rizzoni said.

The afternoon proved to be more successful for the team. They broke the record again with a speed of almost 272 mph.

The final run took place Saturday.

"It was a little nerve-racking," Somogye said. "The most difficult part of building a speed car is the infrequency you get to use it. Even if you are on the team your entire college career, you still only get to see the car race a handful of times."

Somogye's anxiety did not last long.

In the Bullet's final attempt, it broke the previous record set by Pat Rummerfeld by six miles per hour.

The speed was also 11 mph faster than the world record, but it was not officially timed by the company in charge of world records, Rizzoni said.

"Even though we don't have the official world record, breaking the (U.S.) record is the greatest achievement in my nine years as the advisor for this team," Rizzoni said.

Read the official news release





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