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UK motor-driven car hopes to smash world record

01 March, 2001

UK motor-driven car hopes to smash world record

A British team is hoping to set a new world record for wheel-driven vehicles in a vehicle propelled by electric motors. The Pegasus team hopes to smash the record which currently stands at 656km/h and possibly to make an attempt on the world land speed record of 1,227 km/h set by the Thrust SSC team in 1997.

The four-wheel-drive Pegasus vehicle will be powered by a hybrid-electric power plant linking a 500kW-2.2MW gas turbine to a turbine-generator. This in turn will power the wheel motors which will spin at up to 20,000 rpm.

The turbine will be supplied by Pratt & Whitney, one of the project`s sponsors, but the team is still deciding which motors to use. There will be at least four brushless AC or DC motors, and possibly as many as 12. "High torque and high spindle speed is what we need," says Martin Bryant, the project`s originator and director.

"We will try to get away without gears," her adds, but admits that some reduction may be needed between the 100-150kW motors and the wheels.

A modular design is being adopted, partly because it will be easier to make changes to components, and partly because it is more likely to generate future commercial spin-offs. Components including the electrohydraulic steering, bearings, seals and lubricants, are being developed especially for the project. The control electronics may be developed from scratch or adapted from existing commercial products.

Bryant is an automotive designer and engineer who has worked for the Williams, Ligier and Arrows Formula One teams, and was a senior designer for Penske IndyCars. He embarked on the project in 1998, originally planning to make an attempt on the speed record for all-electric vehicles. He may still develop a battery-powered version of Pegasus.

Bryant says that one reason for changing to the hybrid propulsion system was that generating power on-board the car from natural gas will make it a "greener" vehicle than using electricity produced in a power station to charge on-board batteries.

Before the end of this year, Bryant hopes to establish the first world speed record for hybrid-electric vehicles. He says that it will be possible to reach speeds of up to 300 mph (482 km/h) in the UK, but to go faster he will probably have to travel abroad.

He reckons that it will cost £1-2m to make the first record attempt, and up to £10m over a three-year period to break the world wheel-driven record. He aims to raise the vehicle`s speed by about 160km/h a year over this period.

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