Aim93: Synthesis of design, engineering, and human endurance to achieve the fastest, most efficient vehicle on earth
The current World Human Powered Speed record record stands at 89.59mph, set by Todd Reichert and team Aerovelo of Canada in 2016. Their incredible achievement is our inspiration to push the limits of human endurance and ingenuity even further; we believe that with the right combination of engineering and athleticism, a speed of 93mph under human power is theoretically achievable in a Human Powered Vehicle, or HPV.
Creating such a super-bike presents unique engineering and physiological challenges. The frame must be optimised for weight and stiffness, and tailored precisely to the individual rIder’s body and power delivery capability. The drive chain and components must operate with minimal friction and rolling resistance. The external shell of the vehicle must not only contain and protect the rider and mechanical systems, but must also be able slip through the glutinous soup formed by the air we breath with a minimum of aerodynamic drag. The rider must deliver their power with precision to the second over a five mile course, whilst piloting this incredible machine from within a severely confined space, with limited vision, and limited oxygen, at a high altitude race venue.
All of these characteristics are put to the ultimate test each year in September at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC), which takes place on the world’s longest, flattest, straightest, high-altitude stretch of road at Battle Mountain, Nevada. Teams from around the world convene there each year, not only to attempting to break records, but also to share knowledge, experience, and fellowship in pursuit of a common goal.
The Aim93 project originated from a collaboration between long-time HPV race rivals and cycle designers Glen Thompson and Mike Burrows. Glen, an academic at London South Bank University, was exploring new concepts and CFD simulation techniques for low drag HPVs. Mike was bringing a lifetime of cycle design experience to bear on ideas for optimising a chassis for just such a vehicle. When they met again at the funeral of cycle journalism legend Richard Ballantyne in 2014, they decided to put their heads together and go for gold. The result was the ‘Soup Dragon’ - the HPV that entered the WHPSC2018 event.
We were proud to achieve a top recorded speed of 53mph at WHPSC2018 in the Soup Dragon, piloted by British Human Power Club (BHPC) rider Russell Bridge. Despite falling short of our ultimate objective, the event proved the potential of Glen and Mike’s design innovations, and generated significant insights on where and how to improve for 2019. Central to the team’s philosophy is that good design is a process, a story, an evolution; what doesn’t succeed the first time is nothing more than a successful prototype from which we can learn and build.
For 2019, Aim93 has transitioned from an academic-led research to student-led extra-curricular project. A volunteer team of undergraduates and postgraduates from the School of Engineering at London South Bank University have taken up the mantle and are working throughout the academic year to bring their own ideas and passion to this project, using intelligent design tools from Autodesk, combined with an intensive process of prototyping and testing to simulate, model, and explore all aspects of the vehicle, always with the ultimate goal of new human speed records in mind.