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BYU's Electric Vehicle Racing Team Sets New Record

Brigham Young University's Electric Vehicle Racing Team set a new quarter mile acceleration record with their modified General Motors EV 1 at the "Power of DC" electric vehicle drag racing event Saturday, June 11, at the Mason Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown, Maryland.

The team posted a quarter mile elapsed time of 14.08 seconds at 93 miles per hour, having originally set the record for this class (the National Electric Drag Racing Association modified production/class A) in April 2003, a record of 15.9 seconds elapsed time at 77 miles per hour.

"The team was not sure the car would be ready to race in Maryland," said student team leader Taylor Newill, a sophomore electrical engineering major. "We twisted off a one inch diameter transmission jack shaft in practice three weeks ago at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, and we weren't sure we could get a redesigned, stronger jack shaft made in time. We were able to get it made and installed, but testing was limited before we left for Hagerstown. We figured that if we were going to break [the record] again, we'd break it on the track in Maryland."

Modifications to BYU's EV 1 over the past year and a half included doubling the number of Maxwell Technologies ultracapacitors, developing a unique wireless computer control system and installing a student-designed-and-built two-speed transmission.

The EV 1 made three quarter mile runs with elapsed times of 14.38 seconds, 14.30 seconds and 14.08 seconds. Team members changed motor parameters, tire pressures and shift points with each run, trying to lower the elapsed time. In the fourth run, the first gear drive sprocket sheared, effectively ending the day for the car.

Luke Graham, a senior mechanical engineering student, noted, "Electric cars have tremendous torque. It seems like we continue to push the envelope and find the weak link in the drive system by breaking parts. This gives us the opportunity to redesign and improve the technology."

Perry Carter, faculty co-advisor for the EV Racing Team, said the BYU team did a great job preparing the car for the "Power of DC" event.

"We were expecting to run elapsed times in the low 15-second range and were really excited to see the car run in the low 14-second range, eventually beating our old record by 1.8 seconds. In the racing world 1.8 seconds is an enormous gain!"

Although racing is fun, BYU's electric vehicle racing program is a hands-on, student mentored learning project. In addition to building record-setting electric race cars, team members have coauthored journal articles and papers presented at conferences, including a recent Society of Automotive Engineers conference.

BYU's EV 1 dragster was the first electric race car to compete in an event powered by ultracapacitors, which store energy electrostatically as opposed to batteries that store energy electrochemically. Ultracapacitors have several advantages including quick cycle times and extended life as compared to batteries. BYU's EV 1 is equipped with 260 Maxwell Technologies Boostcap ultracapacitors.

Tom Erekson, faculty co-advisor, noted that the team was able to compete at the "Power of DC" event in part because BYU's School of Technology is sponsoring the Electricity Merit Badge booth at the 2005 National Boy Scout Jamboree in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in late July. The EV 1 dragster will be on display at the booth at the Jamboree. In 2001, BYU and the University of Notre Dame co-sponsored the Electricity Merit badge booth, displaying their electric Formula Lightning race cars to attract scouts to the booth.

For more information, contact Tom Erekson at erekson@byu.edu.

Writer: Tom Erekson

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