Hydrogen Power - No Hot Air
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Can Hydrogen-powered powered vehicles kick butt in dry lake racing? If what I saw during Speed Week 2008 at the Bonneville salt flats is any indication, the answer is yes. Last week Ohio State's Center for Automotive Research entered Streamliner No. 2016, the Buckeye Bullet 2, and made history. The car was--you guessed it--hydrogen fuel cell powered. What about filling stations you ask? Filling stations are not an issue at Bonneville. There are none, for hydrogen or any other fuel. The closest thing I saw was a man holding a red can of racing fuel.
The team of engineering students worked most of the week to get their car in shape and make a successful run. There were several days of runs with no recorded times; this is not unusual, given that technical problems and blown engines are as common as salt at Bonneville. On Friday the team had real success. On three runs they consistently crossed the 200-mph barrier. Their best exit speed was 286.476 mph. The team easily entered the 200-mph club and was a scant 13.5 mph away from the 300-mph barrier, a great achievement for any car or team.
Bonneville is a place of great silence that is broken only by magical sound of high-performance engines tuned to within an inch of their lives and often pushed beyond their limits. In this land of extremes, the Buckeye Bullet 2 was unique in being almost completely silent. On the starting line it let forth a single long sigh and then gracefully rose to a speeds over 280 mph.
Does this herald a sudden conversion to hydrogen fuel cell powered cars? No. Is dragging hydrogen -powered cars across the country on flatbed trucks, in a failed PR stunt, bad form? Yes. Folks, learn a thing or two from the intrepid Buckeye engineers, and if you're going to try to drive hydrogen powered cars across the country, have a tanker follow the PR team or set up regular fuel stations at key intervals. That would make a PR point about the need for said hydrogen fuel stations.
What the Buckeye Bullet 2 does is show what can be achieved with smarts and a lot of hard work. The Bullet was designed and built entirely by engineering students at Ohio State. Hello, Detroit! Hello, world! Hire these guys--they should be designing our next generation of street vehicles ... now!
The Bullet 2 did not win in its class; to do so it would have had to beat the record achieved in 2004 by the original Buckeye Bullet, the world's fastest electric car, which turned in a speed of 314.958 mph. If you are wondering, those fractions of a second really do matter at Bonneville.
The video shows the start of the Buckeye Bullet 2's final run just
before sunset on Friday Aug. 22. In the tradition of Bonneville racers,
the start is slow and assisted by a pusher truck. Gearing and traction
conditions often prohibit vehicles from making an unassisted start. The
high-pitched sounds from the Bullet faded shortly after the push start
and were replaced by the sound of pursuit vehicles and racers on the
adjacent "short course." For those who want more details, here is the
Buckeye Bullet's website and blog.
Ohio State engineers quietly rocked the salt at Bonneville and made history. The students baked in the Utah sun, worked incredibly hard, and had real success in the Special Construction Class, competing for records posted by turbine vehicles and blown fuel streamliners and lakesters--not to mention their own 2004 electric vehicle record. Bravo Buckeyes! I can't wait to see your next run, and good luck when classes resume next week.