Monster Machines: Earth’s Fastest Electric Car Just Keeps Getting Quicker

While cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla S are bringing electric vehicle technology mainstream, a team of student researchers are driving that technology to its very limit. The result: a record-shattering 483km/h bullet car that runs without a sip of gasoline.

The Buckeye Bullet is a series of alternate-fuel vehicles designed and built by students at Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research. The first Buckeye Bullet (BB1) measured just over nine metres long, weighed 1800 kilograms, and ran on a series of 10,000 NiMH (nickel metal hydride) secondary batteries powering a 400 horsepower 3-phase AC motor. It set a world record in 2004, hitting a top speed of 437.3km/h on a run across the Bonneville salt flats. It also holds an American land speed record of 506.9km/h — the discrepancy comes from whether or not the event at which the record was set was sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (international motorsports governing body).

For the second generation, BB2, OSU students swapped the NiMH cells out for hydrogen fuels to great effect. In 2008, the BB2 marked a top speed of 461km/h — the fastest ever for a hydrogen vehicle — and in 2009 it set world records for the flying (rolling start) mile and kilometre at 487.4km/h and 487.7km/h respectively.

Later that same year, the OSU was back in Bonneville, having replaced the hydrogen power plant with a new lithium ion battery pack as well as other technologies that were being considered for the upcoming BB3 platform. Though it only raced a few times, that was more than enough for the BB2.5 to break its own record with a top speed of 495.1km/h.

The latest iteration, the Buckeye Bullet 3, is currently under development. OSU has teamed up with Venturi Automobiles to develop an even stronger power train, one able to propel the BB3 beyond 643.7km/h. That’s a huge milestone, reaching that speed would put an electric in the same class as the world’s fastest internal combustion cars for the first time.

The BB3 was supposed to perform a few runs at Bonneville this past September. However weather problems washed out the event and forced the OSU team to instead use a nearby airfield.

But, come June next year, the start of the salt flats’ next race season, the Buckeye Bullet team is looking to once again break its own record. August 2014 can’t come soon enough. [FIAWikiGas 2]