Onlookers watched a sleek, blue vehicle racing across the Bonneville Salt Flats at speeds exceeding 170 mph about six months ago. Now the same vehicle can be found on the cover of Popular Science magazine.
After more than seven years of work from more than a hundred students, BYU’s electric vehicle, “Electric Blue,” has set a world record for its weight class and is making national headlines. Electric Blue managed an average speed of about 156 mph over the two runs, setting a record for the 1,100 pound weight class. The vehicle has long been a source of pride for the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering, but it has also served as great experience for students working on the project.
Dr. Perry Carter, a retired BYU professor, volunteered to lead the project years ago. BYU owned a car they formerly used in an electric racing series and decided to convert the car to a new project. Interestingly enough, Carter never considered himself much of a car guy. Instead, he said he just wanted to create an opportunity for students.
Robbie Petterborg is one student who took advantage of the opportunity. While Petterborg had a background in cars prior to working on the electric vehicle, he never had serious restrictions to work under. The team working on Electric Blue had a goal to set a world record for a specific weight class. This meant the team would have constraints as they worked with the vehicle.
“It’s not hard to build a a very fast car,” Petterborg said. “It’s hard to build a very fast car that’s very small and very light.”
Petterborg spoke of his experience with the electric vehicle as something setting the path for his career. While he said he doesn’t have a fantastic grade point average, doors are opening for him in the form of job offers and internships.
“I can pretty much get whatever job I want,” he said. “I’ve had three job offers already when I have a year to go before graduation.”
Kelly Hales, an electrical engineering student from Tucson, Ariz., decided to return to school with a goal of working on electric cars. He saw Electric Blue on Brigham Square and immediately got involved.
Hales has been a member of the crew working on the car longer than any of the students currently on the team. Hales was a member of the team when the car flipped while going 180 mph on the salt flats in their previous attempt to break a world record, but stayed around long enough to see the car break a world record. While the car set a record, Hales believes there is more to accomplish.
“We feel the car has more, and the driver feels the car has more,” Hales said.
While Hales talked about issues with the car and how it’s a work in progress, he and the crew took encouragement from the project being featured in Popular Science.
“Popular Science is pretty mainstream,” he said. “It’s a pretty big thing to be on the cover.”