A supersonic car project aimed at reaching 1,000 mph combines the power of a military jet engine with a hybrid rocket. The ambitious effort won't take off until 2013, but the speed demon concept alone may inspire futuristic flights of fancy among even the most jaded commuters.
The BLOODHOUND Supersonic Car Project wants to outrace the ghosts of past cars and even airplanes by becoming the second land vehicle to break the sound barrier — its goal would shatter both the land speed record of 763 mph (1,228 kph) and the low-altitude air speed record of 994 mph (1,600 kph). A successful rocket motor test on Oct. 3 marked a necessary step toward a test run scheduled for the desertlike Hakskeen Pan region of South Africa in 2013.
A maximum speed of just above 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) would allow the car to pass speedy vehicles such as a Ferrari Enzo (218 mph, or 351 kph), Japan's magnetic levitation train (361 mph, or 581 kph), and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet flying overhead (593 mph, or 954 kph). Passengers in the land vehicles would hear only the resounding double thunderclap of the car's sonic booms as they were left in the dust.
The car design calls for a EuroJet EJ200 jet engine — used by Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets — to propel the car up to 300 mph (483 kph). A hybrid rocket motor would then kick in to push the car up to a maximum of 1,050 mph (1,690 kph). [ Countdown: The World's Fastest Vehicles ]
When the car hits 1,000 mph, the possibilities seem limitless for anyone behind the wheel. (It becomes even more intriguing if you can imagine a world where all roads go straight, traffic is nonexistent and your car has no need to refuel.)
- You blink in about a third of a second. In that time, your car travels about one and a half NFL football fields (492 feet, or 150 meters).
- A text message from a friend distracts you for just one second. Your car covers the distance equivalent to four and a half soccer (football) fields during that time.
- You decide to go on a short road trip by traveling from NYC to San Francisco in just under three hours on highway I-80 (2,906 miles, or 4,677 kilometers). Or you could make the trip in a little over 2.5 hours if you travel as the crow flies (2,586 miles, or 4,162 kilometers).
- An angry pedestrian whips out a .357 Magnum revolver and fires at your car after it has sped past. Your car outraces the speeding bullet.
- You're having too much fun and don't want the day to end. You decide to "stop" the sun in the sky and prevent it from setting in your field of view by driving in the opposite direction of the Earth's rotation at the equator (our planet rotates at 1,070 mph at the equator).
But don't start hoarding cash for that dream 1,000 mph car just yet — going that fast for even a few minutes still means pushing the limits of existing car technology to the extreme. For instance, the BLOODHOUND team has looked at aluminum alloy wheels as a possible candidate for handling the intense forces during such high-speed runs.
The challenge is undeniably huge. Yet the BLOODHOUND Project team based in Bristol, UK includes current and past land speed record holders such as Andy Green, a British Royal Air Force officer, and Richard Noble. Together, Green and Noble set the current land speed record by breaking the sound barrier in their Thrust Supersonic Car Project — and they hope their new BLOODHOUND effort can prove similarly inspiring for scientists, engineers and mathematicians everywhere.