Ohio State's Buckeye Bullet Aims to Hit 400 mph at Bonneville

After setting a 300+ mph land-speed record for fuel cell cars in 2009 and following it up with a 300+ mph record for electric vehicles at Bonneville last summer, it seems that the engineering students behind Ohio State University’s  Buckeye Bullet land speed record car issued a press release, then promptly got back to work.

The team isn’t working on improving their 300 mph Bullet, however.  Instead, they’ll be building an all-new machine they’re convinced will hit 400 mph.  “The third generation electric land speed record vehicle to be designed and built by OSU students, the Buckeye Bullet 3, will be an entirely new car designed and built from the ground up,” said Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) director Giorgio Rizzoni.

Obviously, designing a 400 mph record car (electric or otherwise) is no small task – and the task is made especially difficult since automotive wind tunnels that simulate 400 mph speeds simply do not exist.

Enter: the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), which is helping OSU students to eliminate the shock waves that land-based vehicles can create at very high speeds by means of a carefully developed virtual wind-tunnel.  “We’re using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to design and optimize the vehicle shape,” says project engineer Cary Bork, an OSU grad student. “The simulations are needed to accurately predict the aerodynamic forces on the vehicle at these speeds and can only be run on large computing clusters.”

Some of the teams’ early wind-tunnel results can be seen, below.

Click to Enlarge

The group hopes the virtual wind-tunnel data will help them overcome high-speed turbulence that, in addition to slowing the car down, could destabilize the car at its extreme top speeds and present a potential safety risk to the driver.  To that end, the new design puts the driver ahead of the front tires to conserve volume, reduce vehicle length, cut drag by five percent and improve the car’s overall handling and “balance”.

If everything goes according to plan, Ohio State’s land-speed champion will be back on the salt and gunning for glory in 2012.

Source | Photos:  Ohio State University, via Wired.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.