Despite the cancellation of Bonneville Speed Week, there was good electric vehicle news to report from the salt flats last week. Symbolically, at least.
Venturi was not able to break the FIA's electric vehicle world speed record for all weight categories with the sleek EV needle that is the Venturi VBB 3. Venturi says the problem was "an almost unprecedented double meteorological event" that were the violent storms and winds that struck the Salt Lake City area in August and flooded parts of the salt flats. Nonetheless, Venturi and Ohio State (the "BB" stands for Buckeye Bullet) did the best they could out in Bonneville over four days and got the VBB3 up to a top speed of 270 miles per hour. That was good enough to set a new record for at least one weight class, an EV over 3.5 metric tons, pending FIA verification, but not what the team was shooting for.
Venturi and Ohio State had hoped to set a new record at 373-mph record last year, but rain once again forced a delay. The current record was set at 307.58 mph in 201 and is held by, wait for it, the Venturi VBB 2.5. So, despite the setbacks, Venturi is just competing against itself and will return to the flats in 2015. You can find the symbolically excited press release below.
Friday, 29 August 2014
An almost unprecedented double meteorological event at the speed test track disrupts the schedule.
Just as in September 2013, Venturi Automobiles and its partner the Center for Automotive Research (Ohio State University) were not able to launch a new attempt to break the FIA world speed record for an electric vehicle, for all weight categories, using the Venturi VBB-3. The record has been held since 2010 by the Venturi VBB-2.5 (495km/h, 307.58 mph). On August 5 and 6, 2014, the Salt Lake City region (Utah, USA) was hit by violent storms. A series of floods affected the Bonneville Salt Flats in particular. The site of various speed challenges in August and September became impassable. Some portions of the track were under 25 cm (about 10 inches) of water.
Because of this situation, unprecedented since 1982, the Speedweek was canceled by its organizers, the SCTA, on August 9. A first in 32 years.
A shorter schedule for the Venturi VBB-3
The Speedweek, which should have taken place from August 9 to 15, was to serve as preparation for the Venturi VBB-3 in its quest to achieve a new performance on an international level. It would have been the first time the vehicle was driven at Bonneville. The 7 days of competition were an essential prerequisite during which the shakedown and technical checks were to be carried out, and the vehicle's behavior at very high speeds, with a progressive increase of power, was to be observed.
When the sun came out again on August 10, the team decided to stay in Bonneville and give it an all-or-nothing try, over a scaled-down, 4-day period. Although the internationally sanctioned track dried out in record time, one portion remained impassable. The race director had no choice but to reduce the distance from 12 to 8 miles. This was a disadvantage for the Venturi VBB-3, which can only get up to top speed after 5.5 miles of acceleration, which would now be reduced to 3.5 miles.
A symbolic world record
Testing on this new race configuration started on August 19, with the world record attempts rescheduled for August 21 and 22. These four days were, in turn, affected by 3 wind storms and a new round of downpours. On Friday, August 22, the tracks were partially flooded once again.
In these conditions, the Venturi VBB-3 could only make about ten runs, setting nonetheless a world record in its category (EV over 3.5 metric tons) with an average speed of 212 mph and a top speed of 270 mph.
This record was a reward for the team's effort and self-sacrifice, even though it was disappointing in terms of performance. The conditions and the shorter duration of the tests meant the team could not finish all the checks and could not push the VBB-3 to its full potential. The vehicle finished a mere 38 mph behind the absolute speed record for electric vehicles, which was set in 2010.
In spite of the circumstances, these "very first tests were very valuable, giving us plenty of data for the various systems (powertrain, suspensions, batteries) and proving that the car has been well designed, guaranteeing the achievement of new standards in terms of very high speed" explained Nicolas Mauduit, Program Director at Venturi Automobiles.
"In this remarkable period of time when the weather played on our nerves, the team showed its considerable resources, and its firm, unwavering commitment" added Delphine Biscaye, VBB-3 Project Manager at Venturi Automobiles.
A new FIA electric vehicle speed record attempt is being considered for 2015. "We will be back on Bonneville Salt Flats in 2015", Gildo Pallanca Pastor, President of Venturi, precises. "The program is ambitious for the Venturi VBB-3. The potential we tested on this car and the time we waited have multiplied our motivation and our willingness to accomplish an unprecedented performance for an electric vehicle."