CNG-Fueled Collegiate Racecar Sets World Record


The CNG-fuelled collegiate race car leaves the OSU workshop, headed for a world record.

Give engineering students a workshop to develop innovative vehicles and they are happy. Give them a race track to try out their creations and they are ecstatic. Give them natural gas for fuel and they become world record breakers. Oklahoma State University racing enthusiasts have set a record by running their natural gas-fueled formula race car 328 laps in a 24-hour period at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma. Hallett is a 1.8 mile, 10 turn road racing course between Tulsa and Stillwater.

“This has never been done before, period. This sets the world record for longest distance traveled, more than 590 miles, by a Formula SAE racing car of any type,” said Jim Beckstrom, adviser for OKstate Racing, the OSU student race car team.

The car itself, believed to be the first CNG-fueled collegiate race car in the U.S., was recently converted to run on natural gas with funding and assistance from Tulsa Gas Technologies. TGT provided the fuel and fuel system for the car’s 24-hour run at Hallett.

“While the car experienced several mechanical failures that we had to address to keep it running, none of them were related to the engine or fuel system, which was still running strong on compressed natural gas at the end,” said Beckstrom, who noted the team weathered two drive chain breaks among the mechanical difficulties with repairs accounting for six hours of downtime.

“The very last lap of the 24 hour period was the third fastest average lap overall at almost 65 miles per hour, which is a real testament to the quality and versatility of natural gas as a high performance, high quality transportation fuel,” he added.

What is Formula SAE?

Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a student design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules, whose purpose is both ensuring on-track safety and promoting clever problem solving.

An event is organised to bring these vehicles into a competitive environment. In total, over 200 schools worldwide compete in competitions held in the United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Italy, and Germany.

Static and dynamic evaluation is carried out to test the vehicle performance under real life conditions. The  event culminates in the endurance competition, in which the cars must complete a 22 lap race of a 1km circuit.

What next for OSU Students?

As he was leaving the track after the event, Beckstrom promised, “The team is ready to do it again. We now look forward to smashing our own world records.”

This article primarily compiled using information from an Oklahoma State University press release.

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