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 480 kph 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 Centre for Automotive Research. The first Buckeye Bullet (BB1) measured just over 30 feet long, weighed 4,000 pounds 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 436 mph on a run across the Bonneville salt flats. It also holds an American land speed record of 505 mph—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 460 kph—the fastest ever for a hydrogen vehicle—and in 2009, it set world records for the flying (rolling start) mile and kilometre at 486.021 kph and 489.7 kph, 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 494.068 kph.
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 645 kph. 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.