Alternative Fuel Speed Records at the Bonneville Salt Flats

State of Sustainable Racing 2012 Case Study

Background

The Bonneville Salt Flats were first used for testing land speeds when W.D. Rishel first tested bicycles there in 1896. The flats are remnants of an ancient lake, Lake Bonneville, and it is managed by the Salt Lake District Bureau of Land Management.   It is approximately 30,000 acres along I-80 near the Utah/Nevada border. Its unique geology makes it an ideal place for racing and setting land speed records. There are concerns for the Bonneville Salt Flats and its environmental protection and conservation, and it was designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1985.

There are 4 main car classifications for running a car: vintage, special construction, modified and production.  From within these, alternative-fueled vehicles typically fall under the special construction classification.

Specifications

  • Vehicle Type:  Any
  • Fuel/Energy Source: Any
  • Years in Production:  N/A
  • Sponsors: The SCTA is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that is comprised of twelve individual clubs. SCTA is the sponsor of speed trials at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Performance Metrics

Bonneville Salt Flats Alt Fuel Speed Records

Speed Record Criteria

  • Stay on existing roads or areas designated for vehicles. Despite the appearance of a hard surface, much of the area is a thin salt crust over soft mud. It easily breaks under the weight of a vehicle.
  • Stay off the salt surface when it is covered by water. When wet, the salt surface is soft and easily damaged by vehicles. Furthermore, the salt water is highly corrosive and can “short-out” the electrical system in your vehicle.
  • Be prepared for desert conditions. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and drop well below 0 in the winter.
  • There are no facilities or services on the salt flats. Temporary facilities are available during racing events.
  • Overnight stays are prohibited on the salt flats. Camping is encouraged on surrounding public lands. Private campgrounds and hookups are available in nearby Wendover, ten miles west of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Other accommodations and services are also available in Wendover.

Learn More

Utah Bonneville Salt Flats Race Association Website

Southern California Timing Association Website

Research by Dominican University’s Green MBA Program

Authors: Jake Baker, Robin Carew, Diana Connolly, Jack Decker

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