A motorcycle and a truck powered by biodiesel are among those to race this year at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats… when it finally dries out enough! The arid region that hosts the yearly Nationals Speed Week, scheduled this year to run Aug. 9-15, recently received a couple of inches of rain, flooding the usually perfectly dry race course. Officials are aiming to try to put on the event in late September/early October, and once they do, racers from Utah State University will be putting biodiesel to the ultimate speed test.
At this year’s event, Utah State will race two vehicles powered by USU-made biodiesel: a 2011 Kawasaki KLR motorcycle with a 0.9 liter Kobuta engine and a 1984 Dodge Rampage subcompact utility truck powered by a 1.5 liter Volkswagen turbo-diesel engine. Both vehicles are privately owned and were offered for use after the owners witnessed the Aggies’ successful racing performances in 2012 and 2013.
“We’re tapping years of outstanding research by USU scientists Bruce Bugbee, Ralph Whitesides, Clark Israelsen and Mike Pace, who are perfecting ways to grow and extract the maximum yield from these sources in the most cost-effective manner possible,” says [undergrad biochemist Mike Morgan, driver of the race car that set USU’s previous records], who is also a USU Extension research intern working with Whitesides, Extension weeds specialist and professor in USU’s Department of Plants, Soils and Climate.
With Whitesides, Morgan is investigating use of safflower and other oilseed crops, grown in areas unsuitable for tillable agriculture such as highway roadsides and military land, for biodiesel production. The young scholar, who was recently named co-chair of the National Biodiesel Board’s Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel partnership program, is following in the footsteps of the late USU researcher Dallas Hanks, who pioneered Utah’s innovative “Freeways-to-Fuel” program. Hanks, who died June 25, 2014, from cancer, received posthumous honors from Salt Lake County during the county council’s Aug. 5, meeting.
“You’ll see ‘This One’s for Dallas’ on my helmet and on the truck at Bonneville,” says Morgan. “Dallas was a great mentor to me and I’m humbled and proud to carry on his legacy.”
In the past, Utah State researchers have run vehicle powered by biofuels made from yeast and algae.