Stillwater News Press

Local News

September 19, 2012

Oklahoma State students build car, set record using compressed natural gas

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Oklahoma State University racing team shattered its former record for miles traveled in 24 hours using a compressed natural gas racing car.

The formula race car crossed the finish line Monday through a haze of fog after traveling around Hallett Racing Circuit 428 times. This was 100 laps more than last year’s record. The 770-mile journey was completed by a rotating team of five student drivers.

“We wanted to show the world what a car can do on compressed natural gas,” team adviser Jim Beckstrom said. The student-built vehicle is the first formula race car to run on natural gas.

Open to all majors, OKstate Racing is a student club that builds a formula race car from the ground up each year and takes it to international competitions. The club’s compressed natural gas program is the only one of its kind in the world. It is a Society of Automotive Engineers organization sponsored by the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

The record did not come without its challenges. Beckstrom said the car was constantly experiencing suspension problems due to an increase in engine power from last year. It was almost too much for the car to handle and began to break. Students had to weld the suspension back together, which resulted in the car getting the nickname “Franken-formula.”

Beckstrom said the racers also had to drive though heavy fog with 10 feet of visibility.

And the car crushed an unfortunate armadillo that wandered into the path of the speeding car.

“The guys were fantastic, they persevered,” Beckstrom said.

The goal of the event was to raise awareness of natural gas as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Beckstrom explained that the fuel is clean burning, abundant, cheap and has a high performance. The team calculated the car’s speed while zipping around the 1.8-mile track was 100 mph.

The car can go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds. Beckstrom said that Oklahoma is one of the largest producers of natural gas in North America.

“Promoting this fuel is good for Oklahoma and good for the United States,” Beckstrom said.

The natural gas powered car is not allowed to compete at international formula events which require liquid fuel. Beckstrom said he hopes to change this and has invited area universities to build their own natural gas cars for a competition next year.

He said the goal is to drive technological innovation and produce engineers experienced with natural gas.

Beckstrom said the record would not have been possible without the team’s sponsors Chesapeake Energy, OnCue Tulsa Gas Technologies and Fuel State Trust.

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