In short: Every September, the Guinness Book of Records hosts a small drag race between college students. The seat is reserved because these mostly untelevised races are known for pushing the absolute limits of small electric cars, and often a team makes acceleration history.
Students of applied natural sciences at ETH Zurich and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences have Broken the world record for acceleration in an electric car. The University of Stuttgart held the previous record, set last year when it sent its car screaming around the track, going from zero to 100 km/h (62.15 mph) in 1.461 seconds. This week, the Zurich students exceeded that achievement with a time of just under one second (0.956 seconds) and a distance of 12.3 meters.
The students are members of the Academic Motorsport Club Zurich (AMZ) and spent a year building the car, which they called “Mythen”. The team suffered several setbacks and had to spend every minute of their free time optimizing and replacing components. All her hard work paid off when driver Kate Maggetti set the electric vehicle acceleration world record in front of the Guinness jury at a test track in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
“Working on the project alongside my studies was very intensive. But it was still a lot of fun to work with other students to continually develop new solutions and put what we learned in class into practice. And of course it is.” “It is an absolutely unique experience to be involved in a world record,” said AMZ boss Yann Bernard.
For all its sponsorship stickers, the Mythen looks more like a go-kart than a race car, but that’s intentional. To break the world record, the team had to build a chassis so small and light that its 240-kilowatt motors could propel it at incredible speeds.
The team built and optimized all Mythos components from the ground up, including circuit boards, housing and battery. The chassis is made of carbon and aluminum and the car weighs only 140 kilograms. The drivetrain consists of four-wheel hub motors with a total output of 326 hp.
Of course, all the horsepower in the world is of no use to you if you can’t transfer it to the ground. Aerodynamics was one of the most challenging aspects of the Mythos design.
“But it’s not just power that matters when it comes to setting an acceleration record – the effective transfer of that power to the ground is also crucial,” said Dario Messerli, head of aerodynamics at AMZ. “The ground effect alone practically doubles the contact force.”
Since spoilers and wings only work at certain speeds, the AMZ team developed aerodynamics under the car that effectively sucks it onto the track from the start. The solution developed by the students almost doubled the downforce compared to a comparable car.
The students don’t expect to keep the record for long. The event takes place every September, with teams learning more from the previous year. The AMZ team has held the record twice – once in 2014 and again in 2016. Swiss students expect their rivals from the University of Stuttgart to do better next year. That’s why they have to work just as hard to maintain their hard-earned record.