BYU Electric Streamliner Salt Flats Racer

(Fan page, not associated with BYU)

BYU is building an electric streamliner to race on the Salt Flats. BYU has raced several electric vehicles through the years -- an electric formula car (won its formula class and did 144 mph on the Salt Flats); and a GM EV-1 run on supercapcitors that set a record for production vehicles, doing 14.08 s in the 1/4 mile.

These pictures show the streamliner's body. It is made of carbon fiber. Normally saving weight is not a big deal for a Salt Flats racer -- indeed some cars add weight for added traction. With literally miles to accelerate, extra weight for traction (or additional batteries or motors) can be a worthy trade-off. In this case, however, BYU is going for the E1 (under 500 kg, or 1100 lbs) record, so saving weight is crucial.
The streamliner's trailer is unusual. A Salt Flats streamliner is so long, and so low, it would need an extremely long ramp to get onto a trailer without scraping. In this case, the trailer is rolled over the streamliner, the streamliner is winched up, and then the cross supports are bolted in place underneath.

The tube at the rear holds the parachute.
The aluminum box in the nose of the car holds all the batteries. Amazingly, it is smaller than most gas tanks! You could slip it into a golf bag!

The 2nd picture shows one of the 3 battery modules. The pack is made from A123 batteries taken from DeWalt tool battery packs. These are the batteries the Killacycle uses, the world's quickest electric vehicle.

The battery pack has the cells arranged as 8 parallel and 110 series. Each module has a submodule of 8 parallel and 10 series. The last module is minus a submodule -- the overall voltage was too high for the controller, so the team left some batteries out. Each single tube has 10 series batteries in a row, taken from the same DeWalt tool battery pack. These stock cell-to-cell connections are carrying about 50 Amps each. 8 in parallel means the total battery pack current is 400 Amps.
A wire connects the terminals so the adjacent eight cells are electrically connected in parallel. Each group of eight parallel connected cells is in series with other eight-packs. This ensures the eight cells are held at the same voltage. It is bad practice, or even dangerous, to parallel some battery chemistries, but is OK for the A123 lithium cells.
Each parallel eight-pack of cells gets charged by a single RC lithium charger. This makes sure the batteries are held at a safe voltage by the charger. If the whole string were charged, some cells might go too high, some might go too low, but the total series voltage of around 400 V wouldn't reveal a problem of a cell a volt too high or low.
The front wheels were machined from a big block of aluminum. The streamliner is front wheel drive. Note the drive motor is small and just behind the front wheels. Putting the heavy stuff up front helps make the streamliner more stable. Making it front wheel drive helps to take advantage of that weight for traction -- the salt is slippery enough that wheelspin can be a big problem. The streamliner has just 1 gear.
The streamliner will have its two rear wheels in a line. Salt Flats racing rules require four wheels. Just one wheel is in place for now, a trailer tire just for moving the streamliner around. The right picture shows the rear wheels to be used for the race are a machined from big chunks of aluminum. While the front has Goodyear high speed tires, in the rear the wheels double as the tires! The streamliner will roll directly on the machined wheel pictured.
The left picture shows the front wheels, then the motor, and the box low in the chassis is the electronic motor controller. The right picture shows how much the driver's seat leans back, and the solid metal sheet roof on the roll cage for safety.
The streamliner is a tight fit. The dashboard, steering wheel, and steering column hinge upwards to give the driver room for ingress and egress.
These pictures now show the BYU EV-1. This was an electric car leased by GM. Around 1000 were built. Most were crushed, but a small number went to universities and museams. BYU resurrected this EV-1 for drag racing.
BYU set a record of 14.08 seconds in the 1/4 mile (400 meters) with this car.
A company used to rent the EV-1 at the LAX airport. I rented EV-1s for a total of about 500 miles of driving. It was surprisingly fast accelerating and great fun to drive. Back then Orange County and Los Angeles had many charging stations, so getting a charge was not a problem.
The sticker shows Maxwell supercapacitors were used. The 2nd picture shows the supercapacitors. That's right, this car ran a 14.08 on just capacitors! I saw the car run once at a drag strip. While the capacitors deliver a lot of power, their energy density is poor. No tire warming burnout was done, and the car was pushed up to the starting line to save power. The range was verified to be 1/4 mile.
The big box towards the front of the car is the electronic motor controller. GM had disabled the controller, but with some help BYU was able to drive the power transistors again.
The left picture shows the controller again. The right picture shows the simple two speed transmission. The original car had a single speed transmission.

Here is an excellent BYU page on the streamliner:

You can read about more of my car adventures on my main page: