What is a land speed vehicle?

Land speed vehicles vary from the type of power used to the weight of the vehicle to the design of the body. Land speed vehicles can run on several types of fuel, solar power, electric power, or as a hybrid. Eagle Works envisioned building a Class E-1, 1100 lb electric vehicle. The weight of electric land speed vehicles are broken down into five classes:

Class I: under 1,101 lbs. (less than 500 kg)

Class II: 1,102-2,205 lbs. (501-1,000 kg)

Class III: 2,206-3,307 lbs. (1,001-1,500 kg)

Class IV: 3,308-4,409 lbs. (1,501-2,000 kg)

Class VIII: 7,717-8,818 lbs. (3,500-4,000 kg)

Eagle Works plans to build a class one electric vehicle. Land speed vehicles run on a course of 1 km to 5,000 km. Eagle Works plans to run on the 7 mile course and the goal is to set a class E-1 record at a speed of 250 MPH. The course will include a two miles to accelerate up to speed, three one-mile flying starts, and two miles to decelerate. The plan for the project is to have a completed vehicle in two years. The Eagle Works land speed vehicle will be completely designed and constructed by students, advised by Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Mike Fabian, with the assistance of Jim Weber, the university's Engineering Lab Technician.

What is a Land Speed Record?

A land speed record is the highest speed achieved by a wheeled vehicle on land over a course of fixed length with an average calculated over two runs, commonly known as "passes". The two runs must be in opposite directions and completed within one hour. In order to mark a new record, the previous record must be broken by at least one percent.

Shop sign posted outside Building 59.
Photo courtesy of Danica Murphy.


Where are land speed vehicles raced?

On the West Coast, Eagle Works has two main locations as options for land speed vehicle races. The two options are either the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah or the El Mirage Dry Lakes in Southern California. Eagle Works plans on running the vehicle at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The Driver

The vehicle will be crewed by students, but will only be driven by an experienced and licensed professional through the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) or a Bonneville approved driver . The driver will be vetted by the university and the sanctioning bodies involved.  Several candidates are under consideration for this position. 

 

Safety

The project was selected because it is technically challenging, pushes the state of the art in clean energy propulsion and optimized vehicle design, and is one of the safest forms of speed tests available. The speeds in class E-1 appear to be just over 200 MPH (which is attainable by many street cars on street tires today) and is conducted on the vast Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah or Dry Lakes in California. These locations are strictly regulated by two sanctioning bodies which are there to ascertain the safety of the vehicle, driver, and the designated course. If the car does not meet the standard, it does not run. Runs are made as single cars and in the event of a problem, the vehicles and drivers are required to have multiple redundant safety gear and structures. The sanctioning bodies only run the cars approximately four times a year, a week at a time, and require the vehicle and driver to work up to speed in a methodical manner.

It will take at least two years and two to three sets of runs to achieve the maximum speed of just over 200 MPH. The incidence of serious injury in this type of vehicle speed runs is nearly non-existent.  The combination of strict sanctioning, the lack of other vehicles and obstacles on the course, and the methodical attainment of speed ensures safety of the driver and the car. Accidents, when they do occur, usually result in an engineering redesign of the vehicle to improve stability but since there is nothing stationary to hit on the course, and the surface is relatively slick (salt or sand),  no injuries result. Since the vehicle carries no combustible fuel or oil, the risk of fire is severely limited.