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The world of racing speed records is changing rapidly. The 0-60 times were once dominated by V8 engines and drag slicks. But today, the fastest accelerating vehicles use electric engines and vacuum systems to create downforce. Engineering students are the ones pushing the cutting edge of these technologies, and thus, it is teams of students who are currently setting and breaking the world acceleration to 60 mph record.

What is Student Formula Racing?

Many engineering schools have student clubs that build and race cars. One of the most common competitions is Formula SAE (hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers).

The student formula team attempting to break the 0-60 record with their Mythen race car.
AMZ Racing team | ETH via YouTube

AMZ Racing is the Academic Motorsports Association of Zürich for students at ETH in Zürich, Switzerland, and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The club engineers and builds student Formula race cars.

In the summer of 2022, the Student Formula team from the University of Stuttgart set a 0-62 mph record of 1.46 seconds. So, in September 2022, students of AMZ began engineering a car to break the German record. Little did they know that within a year, they would shatter the 2022 record and the one-second mark.

The future of speed is electric

Electric motors generate maximum torque from zero RPM. This makes them acceleration monsters. It is not shocking that the new Rimac Nevera electric supercar shattered 23 production car performance records in a single day. This included a 0-60 mph time of 1.74 seconds, the fastest of any current production car. But purpose-built acceleration carts are even faster.

When the students of AMZ set about beating the Stuttgart team’s acceleration record, they knew their vehicle would have to be electric. They started with the 300-pound ultralight cart they use in student Formula racing and installed an electric drive unit in the hub of each of its four wheels.

AMZ’s purpose-built acceleration record car makes 326 horsepower. And it can make all this power right off the line. The only problem is at 309 pounds total, it just spun its wheels whenever you stomped the gas. To put all that power to the ground, the engineering students needed to get creative.

Putting the power down

Kate Magetti breaking the 0-60 mph record in the Mythen student formula race car.
AMZ’s Mythen | ETH via YouTube

AMZ’s solution to traction was essentially to build a reverse hovercraft. Their purpose-built cart has a ground effect skirt with high-speed electric fans, creating enough suction that its wheels won’t spin out.

This is often called “fan car” technology. It has proven so effective that Formula 1 has outlawed it from competition. But in a 0-60 world record, anything goes. With a driver, AMZ’s car weighs about 400 lbs. But with the fan system and its weight combined, it creates about 800 lbs of downforce on its tires.

That driver was an engineering student named Kate Maggetti. She and the rest of the AMZ team brought their car to the airbase in Duebendorf, Switzerland, to have a run at the record.

Magetti described the acceleration, saying, “It’s like being on a roller coaster with a really, really fast start. You feel the tension and a kick.” And what does it feel like to shatter the 0-60 world record? “So you do feel a few nerves. It probably also has to do with respect. You really notice that your heart is pounding away. But you’ve just got to do it and see it through. Then everything’s better again. And then it’s fun, too.”

AMZ’s record was reaching 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 0.956 seconds. From a standstill, Magetti covered 40.3 feet in less than one second.

Next, find out whether the Formula 1 or NASCAR top speed record is higher, or watch Tom Scott try out AMZ’s car himself in the video below: