It was the first time an electric-powered car had ever taken a lap at the Daytona International Speedway. A throng of local reporters looked on. With the pedal to the metal, driver T.K. Wetherell, president of The Florida State University, and passenger Alvin Lim, an engineering doctoral student, raced over the historic 2.5-mile oval in a little over seven minutes. Surely, they set a world record for such a feat.
Wetherell, Lim and a group of students from Florida State’s High Performance Materials Institute made several laps at Daytona on April 27 in the electric vehicle that was designed and built by the students over a four-month period in 2008.
"We had to take it to Daytona," Wetherell said. "This is Daytona. If you want to showcase it, you have to take it to Daytona."
The composite body three-wheeled car — two in the front, one in the rear — is about 68 inches wide and 127 inches long. It runs on nine rechargeable 12-volt batteries, with a range of 12 to 15 miles. At Daytona, the car reached a top speed of 30 mph, but engineering student Lim, the car’s principal designer, says it would be possible to modify it to go significantly faster — perhaps 70 mph.
The High Performance Materials Institute focuses on developing composite materials made from carbon fiber, glass or fiberglass.
Wetherell first drove the electric vehicle in Florida State’s 2008 Homecoming Parade on Nov. 14.