Students hope to break Munro’s land speed record in electric vehicle

Engineering student Charlotte Knight with the UCM35. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Engineering student Charlotte Knight with the UCM35. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Motorsport is taking another step into the future with an electric vehicle hoped to break Burt Munro’s land speed record.

Before the attempt at Bonneville’s Speed Week in the United States in August, the vehicle was on display at this week’s Burt Munro Challenge in Invercargill.

The UCM35 is a four-wheeled electric land speed streamliner, weighing less than 500kg, built by 16 University of Canterbury (UC) students.

UC graduate engineering student Nico Smith worked on the electrical systems for the vehicle.

He said Munro was used as an inspiration for building the vehicle, and it was originally called UCM67 after his 1967 record.

"Halfway through the year, we got in touch with Burt Munro’s family and they came and visited the car and encouraged us to use his livery and his racing number; they expressed their support.

"As part of that, we thought the Burt Munro Challenge would be something we would attend to sort of give back that regard."

Following the challenge, the team hoped to get the vehicle to Bonneville, in the US, for Speed Week, to break the very record Munro shattered in 1967.

The teams for the project were put together in late 2021, with the project starting in January 2022, when the UC Motorsport team had to find an alternative to its typical Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) vehicle last-year projects.

The vehicle was built by the students from the ground up, from the design process to manufacturing.

"There were four teams of four people, we had the aerodynamics, the chassis team, the powertrain team, and the electrical team. And the aerodynamics team were a large part of the overall shape and concept, because there’s physics and engineering involved there to sort of split the wind in different ways. So we had people on every different part of the car," Mr Smith said.

Having driven the vehicle during a test run at speeds up to 75kmh, it was an interesting thing to drive, Mr Smith said.

"Due to the gearing for high speed, the car has sort of a slightly slow initial acceleration but can pick up speed quite quickly. And due to the rigid body, you can hear every noise through sort of the whole chassis, because there’s sound deadening or sort of suspension as such.

"But it’s a very exciting car to sit in and look out of, because it’s so long and you see the nose all the way in front of you pointing into the distance."

The 7.5m-long vehicle is hoped to break the 329kmh record for that class. The team plans to compete with UCM35 at Bonneville Speed Week in August.