Land speed record challenger’s new CEO has goal of zero-emissions but needs funding.
Bloodhound, the all-British jet-rocket car bidding to push the world land speed record beyond 1250km/h, is being reconfigured to deliver its world-beating performance in a new, zero-emissions guise and become a prospective pioneer in the development of synthetic fuels that will power the low-emissions intercontinental aircraft of tomorrow.
Powered by conventional jet fuel, Bloodhound ran successfully in 2019 at speeds of up to 1011km/h (the current record, achieved by the same team with the Thrust SCC car in 1997, stands at 1227.98km/h) on a specially prepared track at Hakskeen Pan in the north of South Africa.
But the project was subsequently knocked off course by a lack of funds and the effects of Covid. It has been in abeyance ever since, stored in Coventry’s Transport Museum with two earlier Thrust record breakers.
However, the arrival of a new Bloodhound CEO, Stuart Edmondson, with a radical plan to run the car’s Rolls-Royce-made Eurofighter Typhoon engines on specially formulated zero-emissions synthetic fuels, has transformed Bloodhound’s relevance and appeal, especially since the car’s previous high- capacity ICE-powered fuel pump has also been ditched in favour of an EV pump and lightweight battery.
Edmondson, a project manager and professional fast-jet engineer who joined Bloodhound in 2014 at the end of a 19-year RAF career, believes Bloodhound can contribute invaluable data towards the “rapidly accelerating and very exciting” development of tomorrow’s low-emissions jet fuels.
“Our Rolls-Royce EJ200 engine powers something like 1000 jet fighters in use across the world, and they’re likely to be around for years to come,” he said. “It helps a lot that our tests are fundamentally safe because our car is always on the ground if something goes wrong…”
Edmondson admits that as “a fire-breathing machine of the old school”, Bloodhound had lost its relevance, but as a user of synthetic fuels, it becomes important all over again. He also hopes that this will renew its appeal to young people. Bloodhound has always set great store by its contact with students, hoping it will encourage them to follow STEM subjects.
“We have a developed car, a proven team, a prepared track and a driver who already holds the world land speed record,” he said. “We’re also in a position to create worldwide interest if we break the record, which we have great prospects of doing. Why wouldn’t new backers be interested?”
Apart from its Rolls- Royce jet, the other major component of Bloodhound’s power pack is its Norwegian- made Nammo rocket motor that provides the immense power needed to take Bloodhound’s top speed from around 1046km/h to beyond 1250km/h. That motor has always been as green as it gets, points out Edmondson:
It is fuelled by hydrogen peroxide, whose only emissions are steam and pure oxygen. Given that it is already 14 years since Bloodhound was launched, and that there have been many successes and reverses along the way, Edmondson is reluctant to put a binding date on the car’s reappearance in action.
But the team, the car, the track and the South African authorities are all ready to go again, he says, so with the right funding, the car could easily be ready to run by 2024. However, Edmondson acknowledged that various global economic and industrial headwinds could hamper development.