Ohio State boat-engine team aims for speed record

Kevin Klosterman wants a new jacket, one with “Buckeye KiloWatt” on one side and a long list of winning years on the opposite sleeve.

But before he can get it, Klosterman and C.G. Cantemir will have to do two things: get their electric-boat program up and running and break the world speed record for such a boat.

That’s all. Piece of cake.

A few years ago, that would not have been easy, but thanks to new electric-motor technology developed by NASA, the two men call breaking the 98-mph record “low-hanging fruit.”

Klosterman, a boat enthusiast who has been involved with racing for years, and Cantemir, an Ohio State University researcher with the College of Engineering, worked for about five years on breaking the 2009 record. At the time, Cantemir said, there was no available technology up to the task.

“(I said) ‘If it becomes possible, let’s talk,’” Cantemir said. “Well, now it’s possible.”

This year, Cantemir heard about a project NASA was working on that involves electric and hybrid-power air travel. The project aims to reduce fuel and energy consumption by fixed-wing aircraft, such as jetliners, by 2035.

That breathed new life into the OSU project.

“Once I realized that we might have the perfect match, I just called Kevin and said, ‘Well, I might have the motor,’” Cantemir said.

“I’m totally in. I didn’t know anything else,” Klosterman said. “I grabbed my son, and we were (at Ohio State) an hour later.”

The team secured the use of a Formula 1 racing boat from racer Chris Fairchild, a friend of Klosterman’s, and agreed to let Fairchild drive during the record-breaking run, which could happen as early as fall on the Scioto River.

“I know that 100 miles per hour is the first benchmark, and it gets you in the newspapers and everything else,” Klosterman said. “But really, with technology, we can double that.”

Electric motors are stronger, as well as smaller and lighter, than traditional, gasoline-powered engines, Cantemir said. Also, they cost less: A 350-horsepower electric motor would cost about $10,000 less than a gas engine, he said.

There is a history of Ohio State and super-fast electric motors. OSU teams hold the land-speed record three years in a row with the Buckeye Bullet program. Ohio State also has an electric motorcycle and off-road vehicles.

“Our intentions are to seize the record and to hold it,” Klosterman said.

He said he wants to bring in OSU engineering students next year to work on the project and produce something even faster.

“I envision the students being able to create their own boats, designed out of a battery instead of taking a boat and retrofitting this technology,” Klosterman said.

He said he wants the Buckeye KiloWatt to become an annual Columbus event that invites colleges to compete against one another for the title — something Klosterman won’t give up easily.

“I feel sorry for the next team because they aren’t going to be able to put together the same team that we’ve got.”

ebohatch@dispatch.com

@emilybohatch

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