Electric Boogaloo: BYU Students Build 155MPH Electric Car

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Lithium-ion batteries pulled from electric drills, solid aluminum tires, a weight below 1,100 pounds, and a one-way speed of 175mph on the way to a verified two-way record of 155.8 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Plus it was built at that most all-American of universities, Brigham Young. Did I mention the on-board webserver?

Fully loaded with batteries, the average electric golf cart can weigh around eight hundred pounds, and they aren’t particularly quick. (Nor, as my friend Eric G. found out right before he was banned from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, should you use them for a “reverse J-turn” right in front of a large crowd.) Part of the problem is the lead-acid conventional cells they use. The Tesla Roadster, on the other hand, uses thousands of lithium-ion cellphone batteries to soar past 110mph.

For their attempt at the sub-1100-pound electric land speed record, students at Brigham Young used 880 lithium-ion batteries, sourced from DeWalt cordless-drill packs. More details of the run and the car itself can be found here and here. The body is carbon fiber, and the car has a small wireless-enabled webserver to make its on-board data available to anyone in the vicinity. (Don’t look for Red Bull Racing to do the same with Sebastian Vettel’s RB7 any time soon.)

There’s something neat about the idea of American students building a car like this; it gives you hope that not all of the electric-car development of the future will be done in China and Korea.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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9 of 17 comments
  • YellowDuck YellowDuck on Oct 05, 2011

    "Four years ago I couldn't even spell enginear. Now I are one." Anyway, I agree. A University education does not have to be considered 100% as vocational training. How about 4 years of studying something that interestes you, using your brain to do stuff that's challengin, learning how to think critically..etc, etc. The whole world is not about better widgets. But, back to the article...very cool project indeed. But, 155? That's it? Also, since when is weight inportant in setting land speed records?

    • See 3 previous
    • Hogie roll Hogie roll on Oct 06, 2011

      @Dan Kendhal, companies bribed the government for the convenience of bringing over foreigners on the H1b program so that they wouldn't have to face the realities of supply and demand among the American students. Wages for engineers would have increased and the number of people studying it would have gone up correspondingly.

  • Mac Mac on Oct 05, 2011

    If "it gives you hope that not all of the electric-car development of the future will be done in China and Korea", I'd suggest you look into the World Solar Challenge, which is starting in 10 days in Australia. 1800 miles on pure solar power, and there are quite a few American teams in the event...

  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Oct 05, 2011

    “reverse J-turn” In the trade,that's known as "a Rockford".

  • Protomech Protomech on Oct 05, 2011

    Tesla Roadster uses 18650 batteries, cylinders 18mm in diameter, 65mm in length. These cells are generally used in laptops, not (recent!) cellphones.