BYU student-built electric car sets world speed record

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A BYU student-built streamliner, Electric Blue, hit 175 mph on the Salt Flats in September, establishing a world land speed record for its weight class.

In two qualifying runs the car averaged 155.8 mph, a satisfying conclusion to a seven-year process that involved some 130 students.

Trey Mortenson, a junior studying mechanical engineering and a team member since April, said a huge amount of effort went into building every little part of the car.

“We were all super nervous,” Mortenson said, “because the year before we made a successful first run, but on the second run we had a car crash.”

Last year, the Electric Blue rolled over on the required second run at about 185 mph. After the crash, the team learned from the experience and worked together to identify and fix the problem.

“So after we successfully had the second run,” Mortenson said, “there was a huge sigh of relief.”

The car set the record for the E1 class, for all-electric cars weighing less than 1,100 pounds. The car is a streamliner, meaning the wheels are inside the body of the car and it has a long, slender shape.

Mortenson said he hopes this experience will lead to similar efforts.

“BYU should actually do more of this type of thing,” Mortenson said. “More hands-on and more competition.”

Robbie Petterborg, a senior studying manufacturing engineering, said the team had to perform extremely precise work.

“It’s completely doable,” Petterborg said.

He said the experience from this competition will be helpful for his future career. Moreover, the knowledge he learned from class at BYU is applicable in real-life problems.

Kelly Hales, a senior studying electrical engineering, was one of the team captains. Hales said the team had to face failures and frustrations.

“But it makes all of that worth it,” Hales said. “It was satisfying to see it go down successfully, get good speed and set the record.”

He said the team faced the biggest challenge after the car rolling incident. The team got little data from the crash. To figure out the problem, they had to analyze video of the crash; however, it was not an easy process, Hales said. The team got good support from the university and many donors, especially primary donor Ira A. Fulton, after whom BYU’s College of Engineering and Technology is named.

“A lot people believe in what we are doing,” Hales said. “I think that’s the best aspect of it.”

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