For years now, the electric vehicle world speed record race has been a competition of one. But that hasn't deterred Venturi and its partners at Ohio State University from pushing the bar continuously higher. Still, things have remained steady for over half a decade since the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 2.5 electric streamliner set a 307.7-mph (495 km/h) record back in 2010. That changed on Monday, when the VBB-3 sped to a new electric vehicle record just over 341.4 mph (549.4 km/h) and reached a top speed of 358 mph (576 km/h).
Venturi and OSU's Center for Automotive Research have had eyes on a new EV record since unveiling the VBB-3 in 2013. Poor weather that year and in the years that followed stymied its efforts to get the car running full speed, though it was able to set class records in 2014 and 2015. Earlier this year, it vowed to come back to Bonneville and make another serious go at proving the VBB-3 the fastest electric car in the world.
The conditions weren't perfect. We witnessed rough salt conditions at Speed Week 2016 in August, and reports from Mike Cook's Bonneville Shootout FIA/FIM event, held between September 15 and 20, suggested that recent rain had left the 11-mile (17.7-km) course pretty variable. Triumph postponed its well-publicized motorcycle world speed record attempt, citing conditions and safety concerns.
Perhaps had the salt been smoother, the VBB-3 would have gotten closer to its estimated 440-mph (708-km/h) top speed. But the subpar conditions didn't stop VBB team driver Roger Schroer from tacking 35 mph (56 km) onto Venturi/CAR's listing in the record books, pending FIA certification. The car averaged 341.4 mph (549.4 km/h) on the mandatory two-way run. It also hit a top speed of 358 mph (576 km/h), another record, according to Venturi.
"At those speeds you have to focus on your task, not on your emotions," Schroer says. "I know we can go further. This week the track was good. No main vehicle instability. Much better than the last days during tuning and testing. We always have to be patient and wait for the track to be ready."
The VBB-3 is quite a feat of electric vehicle engineering, and at roughly 3,000 hp is billed as the most powerful EV in the world, as well as the now-fastest. Motivation comes from a pair of custom Venturi-built motors fed by a massive lithium-ion multi-pack with cells from A123 Systems.
While the new record makes a very successful milestone, the VBB-3 team has no intentions of stopping at 341. "The progress made this year is a very important step in the quest to reach the 400-mph (644 km/h) goal," says Giorgio Rizzoni, CAR research director.
As we came to appreciate when watching the story of Danny Thompson's historic 406.7-mph (655 km/h) national record unfold last month, the 400-mph club is a very exclusive one, even for fuel-engine vehicles. It'll be an even bigger feat when an all-electric vehicle like the VBB-3 breaks through.
The Bonneville land speed record season isn't over just yet. The Southern California Timing Association will be back out on Western Utah's salt next week for its World Finals event.