Oxford engineers assist in breaking of land speed record

Lord Paul Drayson, former Labour cabinet minister for Science and self-confessed “car nut” has set the record for a sub-1000kg electric car in his converted Le Mans racer at Elvington airfield.

The car owes the technology behind its four YASA-750H motors, each with a capability of delivering 160 kW, to the ‘Energy and Power Group’ from Oxford University Engineering Department.

The group, which is primarily interested in sustainable energy research, is headed by Dr. Malcolm McCulloch of Christ Church.

Dr. McCulloch commented, “We are very pleased that Oxford could develop leading edge technology that can be successfully pushed to the bleeding edge and break world records that have stood for seventy years!”

The Drayson team faced the challenge of making the former le Mans racer lighter than 1000kg, so one of the most important advantages that the Oxford-engineered motor offered was its lightweight design.

The previous record for a sub-1000kg electric car was set on the Bonnville Salt Flats in the USA in 1974, by Battery Box General Electric, and had stood at 175mph for thirty-nine years.

The new record was set according to FIA regulations, which state that the car must complete two “passes” over a one-mile stretch in a period of one hour; the record-breaking time of 204.2 mph is the average of the top speeds reached on each pass.

Speaking on the day of the record-breaking run, Lord Drayson explained that the motivation behind the attempt. He said, “To prove that there’s no reason why an electric car can’t do everything an internal combustion engine can do.”

The electric car may yet have some way to go however, as the Bugatti Veyron currently holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest car with an internal combustion engine, with a record of 254.04 mph.

However, the new record puts the electric engine considerably closer at the heels of the internal combustion engine in terms of speed, something which must be gratifying to the Energy and Power Group, whose mission statement is ‘researching efficient, low carbon energy systems’.

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The group’s current research projects focus on smart energy systems and storage, transport and electrical machines.