BYU Today

Quietly Breaking Parts and Setting Records


BYU’S Electric Vehicle Racing Team set a new quarter-mile-acceleration record with their modified General Motors EV1 at the “Power of DC” electric vehicle drag racing event in Hagerstown, Md., June 11.

The team posted a quarter-mile elapsed time of 14.08 seconds at 93 miles per hour, breaking the record BYU set with the EV1 in April 2003 (15.9 seconds elapsed time at 77 miles per hour).

“The team was not sure the car would be ready to race in Maryland,” said student team leader Taylor Newill (’07). “We twisted off a one-inch diameter transmission jack shaft in practice three weeks ago at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City, and we weren’t sure we could get a redesigned, stronger jack shaft made in time. We were able to get it made and installed, but testing was limited before we left for Hagerstown.”

Modifications to the EV1 over the past year and a half included doubling the number of Maxwell Technologies ultracapacitors, developing a unique wireless computer control system, and installing a student-designed-and-built two-speed transmission.

The EV1 made three quarter-mile runs with elapsed times of 14.38 seconds, 14.30 seconds and 14.08 seconds. Team members changed motor parameters, tire pressures, and shift points with each run, trying to lower the elapsed time. In the fourth run, the first-gear drive sprocket sheared, effectively ending the day for the car.

General Motors EV1

Already in the record books, BYU’s modified General Motors EV1 broke its own record for electric vehicle drag racing on June 11. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Mechanical engineering student Lucas B. Graham (’06) noted, “Electric cars have tremendous torque. It seems like we continue to push the envelope and find the weak link in the drive system by breaking parts. This gives us the opportunity to redesign and improve the technology.”

Although racing is fun, the electric vehicle racing program is a hands-on mentored-learning project. In addition to building record-setting electric race cars, team members have coauthored journal articles and papers presented at conferences, including a recent Society of Automotive Engineers conference.

BYU’s EV1 dragster was the first electric race car to compete in an event powered by ultracapacitors, which store energy electrostatically as opposed to batteries that store energy electrochemically. Ultracapacitors have several advantages including quick cycle times and extended life as compared to batteries. The EV1 is equipped with 260 Maxwell Technologies Boostcap ultracapacitors.