Chasing 400: The history of the Buckeye Bullet

The Center for Automotive Research traces the history of the fastest electric vehicle in the world

By: The Ohio State University

Published on September 20, 2017

The quest for a landspeed record started with a request. In 1993, Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair Larry Kennedy asked then Assistant Professor Giorgio Rizzoni to advise a new electric vehicle student racing team. This week, a 20-member student team is preparing—and hoping—to propel the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 to reach 400mph and beat their own record for the fastest electric vehicle in the world.

The Road to the Record

Ohio State’s involvement in electric racing began in the Formula Lightning series. Led by Rizzoni, who is now director of the Center for Automotive Research, Ohio State raced their vehicle, the Smokin’ Buckeye, from 1993-2000. The series was a collegiate open wheel formula style race that traveled to major racetracks around the country. Thirty-one lead acid batteries powered the vehicle and by the end of the series the team could do a full pit stop/battery change in under 17 seconds. Ohio State dominated the competition, winning more than 50 percent of the races entered and every national championship ever awarded.

Smokin Buckeye'
The Smokin’ Buckeye in the pits during a Formula Lightning race

As the Formula Lightning series was phased out in 2000, the team found themselves with a great deal of electric racing experience, but no venue in which to put it to use.

At the team’s farewell dinner, Jeff Kletrovets, vice president of Shoemaker Electric, the Smokin’ Buckeye’s title sponsor, asked, “How fast has an electric car gone?” Answer: 245mph. To that Jeff responded, “If we build a custom motor, can Ohio State design a vehicle to break the record?” That very night they sketched out the framework for the Buckeye Bullet on the back of a napkin at a local Mexican restaurant. The Buckeye Bullet was born, or at least conceived.

Continue reading at the Center for Automotive Research to learn more about the history of the Buckeye Bullet

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