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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Electric car record attempt delay
The e=motion electric car
The batteries needed recharging and winds foiled the team's attempt
A British team's second attempt at the "official" land speed record for an electric vehicle has been foiled by an "electrical gremlin".

The team's first go at the 394km/h (245mph) record in Nevada, US, had to be aborted on Thursday because of gusty winds and battery problems.

The bright orange, 10m-long (32ft) ABB e=motion car is powered by variable speed drives and two 37kW motors.

The official record was set by the US White Lightning vehicle in 1999.

E=motion also aims to go through the 483km/h (300mph) mark.

"It's an electrical gremlin. It could be related to cold, damp temperatures in the Nevada desert," said design engineer Colin Fallows.

"It's just one of those things - never get involved in cars," added driver and fellow car developer, Mark Newby.

Record breaking is the only business that when you achieve your goal, you're redundant. You wait for the next guy to break it. Then you can start over
Colin Fallows, e=motion team
The torpedo-shaped e=motion vehicle has been developed by the two British engineers.

Thursday's first attempt was frustrated because auxiliary batteries for the car's electronic controls lost their full charge, said Mr Newby, a former pilot from Oxfordshire.

Strong cross winds which could have knocked the car off course whipped up while the batteries were being recharged, making the team wait a further day.

The team will now prepare for a final attempt at the closed-off highway it is using on Saturday.

A streetcar racing team is due to use the highway on Sunday, and the British team says it may not be able to financially afford to extend its stay.

Unofficial speeds

The record attempt will be monitored and verified by officials from FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile), the governing body of world motorsport.

The car has to complete two recorded runs at more than 394km/h over a distance of one kilometre (0.622 miles), within an hour. The batteries will be replaced after the first attempt then the car plans to make its second run.

So far, its performance in test runs has looked promising, say the engineers. It has succeeded in reaching 237km/h (146mph) over a stretch of almost 1,000m.

That speed unofficially beat the existing UK electric car speed record for a vehicle weighing more than 990kg.

"The car used by the Bluebird team, which holds the current British electric land-speed record, reached a top speed of 139mph (224km/h) over a distance of two miles," said Mr Newby.

"In its first ever test run, ABB e=motion easily reached 146mph (235km/h) within just over 900m (3,000ft). In fact, the only reason we had to stop the car was because we ran out of road.

"With this sort of performance, we're confident that our car will easily beat the existing electric car land speed world record," he added.

It does not have any mechanical gears. Instead, E=motion has been designed using drive technology from electrical engineering firm ABB, which allows for rapid acceleration.

The car has four packs of 52 lead-acid batteries which power its two motors.

E=motion electric car team replacing batteries
The team replace the car's 52 batteries
The variable speed driver technology converts the 600V DC (direct current) which the batteries generate into AC (alternating current) power for the two motors.

The two motors have a ventilation system which uses a series of fans to ensure they do not overheat during the attempt. The motors' maximum operating temperature is 180C (356F).

Special sensors fitted on to the motors will also provide the team with real-time information about how hot they are getting. Electric cars have obvious environmental benefits. The drive technology used in e=motion is employed in a range of settings worldwide, from water pumps to steel mills. ABB claims it cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 68 million tonnes annually.

Mr Newby and Mr Fallows believe that one day all cars will be electric, and the aim of the record attempt is to show exactly how fast such vehicles can go.

"Record breaking is the only business that when you achieve your goal, you're redundant. You wait for the next guy to break it. Then you can start over," said car designer Mr Fallows, 54, a retired Royal Air Force propulsion engineer from Northamptonshire.

The vehicle's previous attempt to smash the record on the salt flats of Tunisia in 2004 had to be delayed because of unsafe surface conditions.

An Ohio University team has already averaged just under 315mph across two runs, but the Buckeye Bullet mark was not set with official FIA observers present. It is, however, recognised by the SCTA and BNI (Southern California Timing Association and Bonneville Nationals Inc).

Steam engines could be eco hope
28 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature
Blind driver in new speed attempt
08 Sep 04 |  Oxfordshire

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