MESA, Ariz., May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Collaborators of a newly
designed vehicle saw their dreams realized last Saturday when they set
five land speed records at the General Motors Proving Ground. The team,
which includes members from the GM Research and Development Center,
AeroVironment, Inc. and Ultimate Velocipedes, calls the vehicle
GM researcher Dr. Tai Chan, manager of the project at the R&D
Center, said GM embarked upon the project as a learning experience.
"We learned several things," Chan said. "First of all, it was a
challenge to work on a completely different type of vehicle than we were
used to. Second of all, we were able to gain invaluable insight into
applications of new GM-exclusive materials. And finally, we learned a
great deal about the way people with disabilities interact with new
The vehicle, a recumbent tricycle with a specially designed
aerodynamic shell, is quite different from any other existing human
arm-powered vehicle. The biomechanic design and the optimization of
physiological output give the vehicle competitive advantages. The
special materials used -- AcuZinc(TM) and Optiride(TM) are exclusive to
GM and offer superior strength and flexibility. The aerodynamics alone
afford the tricycle a 30 percent energy savings. The shell is
multi-layered for greater strength.
"The shell is multi-layered to be strong, yet lightweight," said
Dale Foster, manager, Energy Technology at AeroVironment. "It is made
of fiberglass on the interior and exterior surfaces, which encapsulate a
layer of carbon fiber and Kevlar(TM). The weight of the shell is
approximately 24 pounds."
Six sanctioning events were attempted: a 200-meter speed trial, a
one-kilometer speed trial, and a one-hour endurance event. All three
events were run by a male rider as well as a female rider, for a goal of
setting six new world records. The former speed record for the 200-meter trial was 32.5 miles per hour. The International Human Powered
Vehicle Association (IHPVA) sanctioned the events, under the guidance of
IHPVA Board of Directors Member Andrew Letton, vice president of Land
The CHAIRIOT Project grew out of a concept by Thomas Forsyth, owner
of Ultimate Velocipedes in Portland, Oregon. Forsyth, a bicycling
enthusiast, approached AeroVironment in the fall of 1994, with ideas on
improving the aerodynamic efficiency of human arm-powered vehicles.
AeroVironment Board Chairman Dr. Paul MacCready contacted GM Research
and Development Center Vice President Kenneth Baker and the team was
"I felt the project had a great deal of merit," Baker said. "It was
an experiment that could provide GM with information about a variety of
disciplines. It was also a chance for us to gain valuable insight into
future mobility systems and how to better accommodate customers with
disabilities in the design of GM's products."
The riders of the vehicle are world-class wheelchair athletes and
are quite familiar with competition. The CHAIRIOT's female rider, Tracy
Miller of Mukilteo, Wash., won four silver medals at the 1988 Olympics
on behalf of the U.S. Paralympic Racing Team in Seoul, Korea. Miller is
an active wheelchair sports competitor, and has a long history of other
national and local successes.
The male rider, Jacob Walter Jung Ho Heilveil, of Bothell, Wash.,
began wheelchair sports at age 12. He won back-to-back first-place
honors in the 1993 and 1994 Taegu Half Marathon races in Korea, and
completed the 1994 Boston Marathon in 1:31:46.
All parties gleaned important new insights from the CHAIRIOT
Project, according to Forsyth.
"One of the most interesting aspects of this project was that it
linked up my company -- basically a one-person shop -- with
AeroVironment, a medium-sized company, and GM -- the largest company in
the world," said Forsyth. "We also had significant logistics challenges
to work out. For instance, I'm in Oregon, the riders are in Washington,
AeroVironment is in California, and we worked with GM researchers and
engineers in Michigan."
The recorded speeds were as follows:
30.39 mph Men's 200 Meter Speed Trial from a flying start
21.39 mph Women's 200 Meter Speed Trial from a flying start*
26.12 mph Men's One Kilometer Speed Trial from a flying start*
21.12 mph Women's One Kilometer Trial from a flying start*
20.36 mph Men's One-Hour Time Trial from a stationary start*
17.85 mph Women's One-Hour Time Trial from a flying start*
* New land speed records (both one-hour time trials were certified,
but wind conditions were above maximum limits).
/CONTACT: Carolyn Grant Normandin of General Motors, 810-986-0160/
CO: General Motors Corporation
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