What’s the Fastest Car in the World Right Now?
We’ve written a fair amount about vehicles, and it seems like you all love the topic. Our articles on Vehicle-2–Vehicle (V2V) communication and connected cars generated a huge number of shares, and our pieces on autonomous vehicle technologies are always popular as well. Since you all love cars so much, we thought we might share a thought we had the other day while watching old episodes of Top Gear on the telly. What’s the fastest car in the world right now?
The Land Speed Record
Try to ask Google, “what’s the fastest car in the world right now?” What you get are rubbish ranked lists like this one:
We might conclude then that the Hennessey Venom F5 is the fastest car at 301 miles-per-hour (mph) top speed or 484.4 kilometers per hour (kph), but then there’s that word “claimed.” Is that the fastest a car has ever traveled? A “claimed” 301 mph?
Everyone who is reading this ought to understand the question we asked. What is the single fastest car in the world right now? That’s a pretty simple question, and another way of asking it is how fast has a car ever been recorded traveling? Before we answer that question, we need to know who is the judge and jury that makes sure nobody’s fibbing. Turns out that a posh-sounding French organization called the “Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile” or FIA is the gatekeeper for doling out the “land speed record” which is “the highest speed achieved by a person using a vehicle on land.”
The rules require that record attempts are standardized over a fixed-length course and averaged over two runs in opposite directions, both held within one hour of each other. The entire process is formalized in a handy flow chart that shows all the hoops you will need to jump through:
What this tells us is that whoever attempts this record needs to put in a significant amount of time and investment. So, which car presently holds that record?
The Fastest Car in The World
Now that we know how to measure the fastest car in the world, we can show you what it looks like. The current holder of the Outright World Land Speed Record is Thrust SuperSonic Car or ThrustSSC, a twin turbofan jet-powered car which achieved 763.035 mph (1227.985 kph) – over one mile in October 1997. This was the first supersonic record as it broke the sound barrier at Mach 1.016. This monstrosity currently holds the record for the fastest recorded speed that a car has ever traveled:
The car is powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey 202 jet engines of the same type that you’ll find on the British F-4 Phantom II jet fighter. With a weight of over 10 tons, it managed .5 miles-per-gallon, a number that’s not surprising for a “car” that’s 54 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 7 feet tall (16.45 meters long, 3.65 meters wide, and 2.13 meters tall). All this translates to 110,000 brake horsepower (bhp) which propels the driver from 0-100 mph in 4 seconds and – get this – 0-600 mph in 16 seconds (0-161 kph in 4 seconds and 0-965 kph in 16 seconds). And speaking of the driver, here is the hero who drove that car:
When setting the world record, a malfunction prevented ThrustSSC’s parachutes from deploying, and rumor has it that Andy Green slowed the vehicle down by throwing his massive Godzilla-sized titanium balls out the window instead. Not satisfied with sitting on his laurels, Mr. Green is now working on building a car that will exceed 1,000 mph. It’s that vehicle which prompted us to write this article, as the project almost went bankrupt a month ago but was saved at the last minute.
The Next Fastest Car in The World
Last month, a press release came across our desk about Project Bloodhound, an initiative that started in 2007 with the aim of hitting speeds that exceed 1,000 mph (1,609 kph). The team behind the project is the same team that was behind ThrustSSC, and they’ve already successfully built a viable racing car called BloodhoundSSC. While the car has only been tested to 200mph thus far, it has shown every sign of being able to smash the old record to smithereens.
At 44 feet long and weighing 7.5 tons, it’s shorter and lighter than ThrustSSC, but produces far more power at 135,000 bhp. Over 110 man-years have been spent so far producing this “car” that’s powered by a jet engine and a rocket, and it’s by far the most complicated car ever built. It is expected to travel faster than a bullet fired from a 357 Magnum taking less than a minute to reach 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) with an estimated top speed of 1,050 mph (1,690 kph). In order to slow the vehicle down, there are three braking systems being deployed at various stages. Here are the instructions written on the dashboard in case you’re traveling 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) and decide you’ve had enough:
- 1000mph (1,609 kph): close the throttle
- 800mph (1,287 kph): start to deploy the airbrake
- 650mph (1,046 kph): deploy first parachute
- 400mph (643 kph): deploy a second chute if required
- 200mph (321 kph): apply the wheel brakes.
- 0mph (0kmh): Calm those nerves down with a Tetley’s and a fag
The airbrake will provide drag equivalent to an elephant being dragged behind the car, while the parachute will add the equivalent of a double-decker bus being dragged along as well. When you’re covering 4.5 football fields a second, you need more than just some oversized Brembos to slow you down.
Powering this beast are three engines. A Eurojet EJ200 jet engine and a Nammo rocket provide the thrust, while the third – a Jaguar Supercharged V8 engine – acts as an auxiliary power unit to drive the rocket oxidizer pump.
The setup will need around 105 gallons (400 liters) of jet fuel and 210 gallons (800 liters) of rocket oxidizer (high test peroxide) for each 1,000mph run. To put this type of power into perspective, if you pointed the car straight up into the air and stomped on the “gas pedal,” you would reach 25,000 feet before you ran out of fuel. In case you’re wondering what it’s like to sit inside of this masterpiece of British engineering, we’ll leave you with this picture of what it’s like inside the cockpit of the BloodhoundSSC, hopefully, the next fastest car in the world:
The Project’s Progress
As with any complex engineering project, things have progressed much slower than expected. An article by Tech Republic back in 2015 estimated that the car would break the land speed record in 2016 by hitting 800mph and then exceed 1,000mph in 2017. It’s now 2019, and the car has only reached speeds of 200mph. It’s difficult to say how much they’ve already spent, with the same article estimating that they would have spent around $68 million by the time the record was set. What matters most is how much more needs to be spent before we can see this thing flying across a desert in pursuit of a new land speed record. That number sits at around 25 million British pounds or just over $32 million in greenbacks.
In October of last year, a press release stated that the project had “gone into administration” which essentially means they’re going bankrupt and need to be bailed out. A few months later, good news. They were able to secure “the successful sale of the business and assets,” which will allow the project to continue with the project team claiming that they “could be racing for the record in as little as ten months.” Let’s hope so.
There’s plenty of technology being used to propel the fastest car in the world, but it’s unlikely anything will ever be commercialized as a result of these land speed projects. However, we will learn new things that may come into use in unexpected applications, An incredible amount of engineering work has gone into building the Bloodhound, and it seems like such a shame that the British seem more interested in Meghan Markle’s baby gender clues than keeping alive a project that has attracted millions of children who are now more likely to pursue careers in STEM fields. At least now, the project is back on track and a lot more influential people know about it.