Can you imagine driving over 600 kilometres per hour? That’s the goal of Roger Schroer, current FIA land speed record holder with an electric vehicle. Together with Venturi and the Ohio State University, the American driver is confident in writing history this summer. ElectricAutosport.com spoke with Schroer when he attended the Formula E Miami ePrix.
It was in the summer of 2010 when Schroer reached 495 km/h (307 mph) in the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 2.5 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States of America. It’s exactly this record he attempts to beat with the 3.0 version of the 11,35-metre long vehicle. The 3000 hp (up to 2200kW) strong machine has been built by the Monaco-based Venturi Automobiles – which also races in the FIA Formula E Championship – and the Ohio State University.
Schroer made two earlier attempts but the weather wasn’t playing in his favour as the track was flooded due to storms. However, he broke another record last year on a modified track reaching 342.170 km/h over a flying mile. It resulted in being listed in FIA’s Category A Group VIII Class 8 for EV’s over 3.5 tonnes.
Reaching 600 km/h, that’s the goal for this summer. But not the ultimate goal Schroer reveals: “We’re reaching each target step by step. This year we want to do 600 km/h and in 2016 we would like to go close to 700 km/h. We want to be part of the 400 mph club (643.74 km/h).” So far only a 14 drivers (with conventional type of cars) have reached this extraordinary level of speed.
How does that feel, going so fast you must be wondering? Schroer explains that the sensation of speed is much different than one would expect. “As you can see, the land speed vehicle is very long and narrow and it needs to be as much as aerodynamic as possible,” Schroer explains.
He points out that the visibility of the driver is less, compared with a normal racing car as you won’t face any opponents to look out for. “And as the salt flats is a very open space with white salt up to the horizon, for me as the driver you have few visual references. So all together the sensation of speed is different. It is like sitting in air plane; you don’t have the visual references but you are going fast,” he adds. “But I’m very much enjoying its technical challenge.”
But don’t think it’s easy to build and drive a competitive vehicle. Stability of this ‘rocket on wheels’ is crucial as it is coping with immense forces. “Aerodynamic stability with the forces involved is very significant,” he says. “The vehicle must be designed in such a way that you have good stability at top speed. The control issue is not very significant. As long as the engineers have done their homework to make sure the stability is good, all is fine.”
Schroer has always enjoyed the sensation of speed and has a long history in driving high performance vehicles at the by Honda owned test rack in Northwest Ohio before he got appointed to start a series of record attempts with electric vehicles. When the Ohio State University made the decision to go electric, he was keen to explore the possibilities. “I don’t know what’s the best solution for mobility, but I do think that projects like this and Formula E certainly raises public awareness of electric cars. It’s important that the public acknowledges that electric vehicles can be powerful.”
In that perspective beating his own record this summer seems perfect timing. The automotive industry is going green, most cities have green policies in place and Formula E has put electric racing on the world map. And Schroer? He is more than ready to achieve another milestone: “It was very helpful that we were able to test the VBB 3.0 last year at Bonneville. We gathered a lot of data concerning the aerodynamic stability, the battery and its cooling system. These elements are crucial for success; to reach 600 kilometres per hour. That’s our goal.”
The FIA record attempts are scheduled to take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats mid-August 2015 after the traditional ‘Speed Week’.
Header photo by Formula E / LAT Photography. In article photos by Venturi Automobiles.