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ABB-powered electric car attempts to break land speed record in United States

ABB Limited (Group Headquarters) : 21 April, 2005  (Company News)
A high-speed electric car, powered by ABB motors and drives, will attempt to break the land speed record for an electrically powered vehicle on 5 May in Nevada, USA. The 10 metre long ABB e=motion car will challenge the current official F
Developed with assistance from ABB, the car will make the record attempt on a closed, secured section of paved road near the city of Wendover, northeastern Nevada.

The FIA, the world's leading motorsports ruling body, will monitor and certify the attempt. To qualify as an official land speed record under FIA rules, the car must perform two recorded runs at better than 252 mph over a distance of one kilometre (0.622 miles) within a set period.

The ABB e=motion car is the brainchild of UK engineers, Mark Newby and Colin Fallows. It has already easily reached 146 mph (237 kph) in just under 1,000 metres during tests in the UK - the longest distance available - and unofficially breaking the 139 mph UK record for an electric vehicle.

'With this sort of performance, we're confident that our car will easily beat the existing electric car land speed world record,' says Newby.

The ABB e=motion car has no mechanical gears, acceleration is controlled entirely by ABB variable speed drives regulating two 37 kW electric motors from ABB. 'ABB technology and know-how has put this car in the world-speed league, and demonstrates our unique ability to meet unusual technology challenges with a pioneering spirit,' said an ABB spokesman.

The current FIA electric car record is held by the White Lightning team from the US. Other record attempts have been made, but not under FIA rules.

A previous attempt by ABB e=motion to break the record on the salt flats of Tunisia in 2004 was postponed after the surface was deemed unsafe due to unusual weather conditions, but there are no such doubts about the road in Nevada.

Further information about the ABB e=motion record attempt, including pictures and additional technical detail, is available on ABB's web site (

An ABB industrial drive and two 37 kW AC motors are used to power ABB e=motion. The motors produce a combined output of more than 370 kW.

ABB's system uses a regenerative industrial drive to convert the 600V DC output from the car's four packs of 52 lead-acid batteries into AC power for the two motors.

To prevent overheating during the record attempt, each motor has been adapted to include a forced-ventilation system comprising a series of 24-volt DC fans, to help keep the motors below their maximum operating temperature of 180C (356F). ABB sensors fitted to each motor winding provide real-time information about motor temperatures and help protect the motors.

Rapid acceleration is the key to the record attempt. For this reason, ABB's motor/drive system also uses the company's Direct Torque Control drive technology, which provides excellent control of motor torque, with full motor torque available even at zero speed.

'Other challengers to the record commonly use gear-driven systems in their cars to achieve the fastest possible acceleration, whereas the technology we've supplied steadily controls torque across the whole speed range,' says Frank Griffith, one of the ABB team who helped to develop the car's power system. 'Although a geared vehicle can achieve 100 mph in a few seconds, its rate of acceleration falls away much more quickly compared to our system; this one will continue to accelerate even past the 300 mph mark, provided sufficient battery power is available.'

Newby and Fallows struggled for 18 months to find a company that could supply the equipment needed to power the car before contacting ABB in November 2002.

'Of the companies we originally approached, none could provide either the technology or expertise that justified a world record attempt of this magnitude,' said Fallows, who designed the car. 'We initially approached ABB because we were aware of the company's profile in the world of electrical engineering. Its solution, based on off-the-shelf industrial motors and drives, proved extremely compact, which was very important as we only had a limited amount of space available in the car.'

One of the biggest challenges was the need to simulate the vehicle dynamics and performance likely to be experienced during the record attempt without physically testing the car on a track.

'Likely performance was modelled and calculated using a set of estimated conditions involving factors such as rolling resistance, drag and battery discharge rate,' says Griffith. 'Much of this information either did not exist or else had to be extrapolated from data found on the Internet.'

To help fine-tune the system's performance, ABB used data from the two independent four-channel data loggers incorporated within the drive.

'The data loggers enabled us to improve the performance of our system in the same way as Formula One teams do with their cars,' explains Steve Malpass, a member of the ABB design team. 'One of the data loggers was set to a rapid sampling rate of one sample per millisecond to record all the actual events as they happened.

'By setting the other logger to a slower rate, we were able to record information on trends that occurred throughout the test runs, which provided us with an overall picture of how the car was performing.'

ABB is the world's largest manufacturer of electric motors and drives. They are designed to be environmentally friendly, reducing energy costs for customers and sharply cutting emissions. The company's variable speed AC drives, installed around the world, cut global C02 emissions by an annual total of 68 million tons, equivalent to the emissions of a country the size of Finland. The energy saved is the annual equivalent to the output of ten average sized power plants.

ABB has an extensive installed base of these drives, more than one million in the past 20 years.

On 5 May, the latest information, as well as pictures and video footage, will be available on the ABB web site at Availability of pictures and footage will depend on the timing of the race and weather conditions.
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