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Liverpool students target human powered vehicle world record

University engineers hope Arion 1 Velocipede will hit 90mph

A team from the University of Liverpool are attempting to break the world record for the fastest human powered vehicle. The record currently stands at 83.13mph.

The University of Liverpool Velocipede Team (ULVTeam) are designing and building a vehicle called Arion1. They hope it will achieve the record next year at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, hosted by the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA), in Battle Mountain, Nevada.

If the eight engineering students succeed, they’ll bring the record to the UK for the first time. The current record was set in September last year by a team of students from the Delft University of Technology and VU University of Amsterdam.

“This is the first time that the University of Liverpool have attempted this exciting project and the team and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have received at this early stage of our journey,” said team leader Ben Hogan.

“We are extremely excited about attending the 2015 event and having the opportunity to showcase the UK’s innovation for sustainable transport on an international stage.”

ULVTeam say that the rider will be lying in a recumbent position just five inches from the ground inside a carbon-fibre shell, and will need to generate over 700 watts of power. They have partnered with Far-UK Composites, a Nottingham-based company that specialises in lightweight structural composite components, for the project.

The unusual shape that completely encloses the vehicle’s framework is, of course, designed with aerodynamics in mind. The team aren’t yet saying whether the rider will be using a windscreen or relying on a camera to see out of the shell.

“The project is going very well right now,” said Ben Hogan. “We are currently in the prototyping stage of the project and are all on track for setting the record in September 2015. We hope to keep everyone updated over the summer months of our progress with the prototyping via our social media pages.

“The team are visiting the track in Battle Mountain, Nevada, later this year. During this visit the team will make a number of measurements and observations that will help the team design Arion1 to reach a record breaking speed of 90mph.”

Graeme Obree set a new world speed record for cycling in a prone position last September (56.62mph), although his original plan had been to go for the overall human powered speed record. 

Here’s a video of the Dutch team breaking the record last year.

For more info go to the ULVTeam website

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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