Hybrids & Electrics

Electric Speed Record Set at Bonneville Salt Flats

Competitive people push boundaries. For example, the four-minute mile was considered impossible at one time. Also, a three hundred mile-per-hour capable production car was also considered unheard of. Over time those records were shattered. Now comes word that EV West just broke an electric vehicle record. They shot for and surpassed the electric speed record for class E2 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. 

What are the Bonneville Salt Flats?

A flat white long field dissappears to the base of mountains in the background. One side is lined with traffic cones set for competition.
Traffic cones mark the edge of the raceway on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The salt flats are the ideal home of land speed record attempts. The surface is made of salt deposit and is so flat that it is possible to see the curvature of the Earth making it the ideal place for vehicle racing. | Dan Callister/Liaison

The Bonneville Salt Flats are known worldwide as an ideal place for high-speed vehicle testing. Utah’s website describes it as, “Imagine a place so flat you seem to see the curvature of the planet, so barren not even the simplest life forms can exist.” The area is a flat, 30,000-acre location along the Utah/Nevada border that runs along I80. Temperatures there can exceed 100 degrees in the Summer and drop to zero degrees in the Winter. 

The flatness and barrenness make the Bonneville Salt Flats an ideal testing ground for automotive speed records. Drivers can take their rides for long distances at speeds sometimes even reaching the sound barrier, while on the ground. Automotive legends are made at the Flats, many records fall, and many boundaries are reset.

What is the Electraliner Lakester?

The Electraliner Lakester is a purpose-built, one-off, high-speed electric vehicle. Its propulsion is via an electric motor harvested from a Tesla, modified, and linked up to 294 Panasonic batteries. The racecar was planned for years. This year, however, construction began in earnest during the global pandemic situation. You can watch the build process in the video below.

Chasing the electric record

On Wednesday, August 12th, the crew at EV West and Hickey Speed took the Electraliner electric vehicle to the short course at the Bonneville Salt Flats. According to our friends at Jalopnik, while there, the team ran a respectable 169.745 miles-per-hour on the short-course. That was when they graduated to the long course. They swapped the batteries out and set-up the car for their first long course run. They achieved 211 miles-per-hour on that pass, just under the record. After exchanging the battery pack, another pass was made. This time the pass was clocked at 217.562 miles-per-hour, just over the record. The E2 class record was previously 213.084 miles-per-hour. 

The rules at Bonneville indicate that a second pass must be made to make a new speed record official. But, apparently, the vehicle has to be impounded overnight first. The next run must be done the following day. So, they would have to wait overnight to back up their record run.

Breaking the electric record

Thursday arrived and the team brought the 2,060-pound Electraliner electric vehicle out of the impound. Once given the go-ahead, another pass was completed. This one came in at 219 miles-per-hour. The average with the prior run and this run together was 218.185 miles-per-hour.

Breaking electric record after electric record

The team set a new record. But, one had the sense that they were not done. So, I reached out to Mr. Bream, Owner, and Operator of EV West. He graciously spent some time with me on the phone going over the details of the record-breaking runs. He confirmed that they were able to get another record on Thursday. A quick check of the Southern California Timing Association records for the week shows that the team achieved 229.363 miles-per-hour with the Electraliner with driver, Jim Hoogerhyde.

Mr. Bream has had the opportunity to return to his shop and start to digest some of the data that his team was able to log. He said that data clearly shows that once they reached about two hundred miles-per-hour, there began to be some slippage on the salt. So, every mile-per-hour gain was an incredibly hard fight. At one point, they actually recorded a wheel speed of 254 miles-per-hour, but it was lost to lack of grip on the salt.

Pushing more limits, more to come

Mr. Bream will be going back to the Bonneville Salt Flats again. He said it won’t be for pictures. He will be going to collect records. He is a firm believer in always pushing the limits. So, he and his team will continue to tweak their efforts until they surpass the all-electric land speed record set by the Ohio State University Buckeye Bullet. That record was set in 2016 at 341.4 miles-per-hour. He also has his eye on another race, the Baja 1000.