This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The problem with building fast electric cars is that acceleration requires powerful batteries, and batteries weigh a lot. But that didn't stop Perry Carter, a Brigham Young University engineer professor, from spending seven years to create the world's fastest, light-weight, electric-powered vehicle.
His team of engineering students came close last year when their vehicle, dubbed "Electric Blue" after BYU's school color, rolled going 180 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats last year. No one was injured.
Carter's project finally reached the finish line last month, when his team returned to the Salt Flats. Electric Blue averaged 155 mph in two crash-free qualifying one-mile runs, setting a world speed record for cars weighing less than 1,100 pounds.
"This is a wonderful closure to 31 years of teaching at BYU and many projects," Carter said in video posted on YouTube, not long after retiring from BYU. "But this is the one that takes the cake. I'm done."
There had been no prior certified speed runs in this vehicle class, known as E-1, but unofficial standards reached speeds of more than 130 mph.
The team's bullet-shaped vehicle, known as a streamliner, is a narrow chassis encased in a carbon-fiber shell that students designed for maximum aerodynamic performance. They powered it with a series of lithium iron phosphate batteries. The vehicle can be driven safely only at the Salt Flats, or in very large empty parking lots. Its ground clearance is about an inch and its enclosed wheel base doesn't allow it turn on a dime, or a silver dollar for that matter.
"We want to build the car to aviation standards, not just to racing standards. If this were an airplane we would be comfortable flying it," said project leader Jeffrey Baxter, a graduate student in business, in a YouTube post shortly before last year's unsuccessful test. Driver Jim Burkdoll, president of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, survived the flipping last year unscathed. A 30-year veteran of speed trials, Burkdoll piloted the car for the second test, achieving a peak speed of 175 mph and flying into the record books.
Most of the 130 students involved over the years were majors in manufacturing engineering technology or mechanical engineering, including Baxter when he attended BYU as an undergraduate. Higher education benefactor Ira Fulton, after whom BYU's college of engineering is named, sponsored the project.
O See a video of the BYU team at the Bonneville Salt Flats last month when the speed record was set > http://bit.ly/rpfi8y