Breaking records

Aug 28, 2009

Kettering University alumnus Kyle Schwulst '02 and his team at ElectroJet earned four land speed records during Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

ElectroJet broke four land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats using the company’s electronic fuel injection system in two Chinese motorcycles during Speed Week Aug. 8 through 14.

Kyle Schwulst '02, owner and CEO of ElectroJet and a 2002 graduate of Kettering University, and his team undertook setting speed records to prove that motorcycles “can be clean, green and still have high performance,” said Schwulst. They were able to take their product to the Bonneville Speedway with the help of two sponsors, Freescale Semiconductor and Standard Motor Products. 

Bonneville Speedway is an area of the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah, that is marked out for motor sports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records, typically set during Speed Week.

ElectroJet designs and manufactures low-cost electronic engine controls for applications including motorcycles, lawn mowers, and generators.  The firm based in Brighton, Mich., and consists of primarily Kettering alumni and co-op students.

They took Chinese-made Moto-chu motorcycles with 150cc engines to Bonneville, competed in the 175cc engine displacement class, and still managed to earn speed records. “We had a top speed of 63 mph,” said Schwulst.

“These motorcycles are some of the cleanest of their kind, and setting speed records proves that environmental friendliness does not have to negate vehicle performance,” said Schwulst.  In testing, the ElectroJet system has been shown to reduce pollution by about 90 percent from the carbureted versions of the same motorcycles.

“Our products definitely improved the performance of the vehicles,” he said. “The ElectroJet system makes these small engines more efficient.  That means the engines use less fuel but run better in just about all aspects of mechanical performance.”

“These records were set using exhaust catalysts and ElectroJet EFI in purely stock vehicle trim,” explained Schwulst. “You could literally purchase one of these motorcycles from a dealership showroom in China, and with all the pollution reduction technology on the vehicle, I believe it is fair to say that these motorcycles were by far the least polluting vehicles out on the salt,” he said, of the Bonneville competition.

Each of the four classes in which ElectroJet competed were in the “Pushrod” category, and judged for the fastest speed achieved within five miles, according to Alex Lucido‘05, Software Tools engineer for ElectroJet, who traveled to Bonneville with Schwulst and Jesse Beeker, a Field Application engineer from Freescale. Beeker served as ElectroJet’s driver for the speed competitions.

The four classes included:

  • Production – Production Pushrod (P-PP), involving a completely stock bike with the ElectroJet electronic fuel injection system;
  • Modified – Pushrod Gas (M-PG) involving a cycle with body modifications Bonneville Nationals, Inc. (BNI)-approved special gas;
  • Modified – Pushrod Fuel (M-PF) involving the modified body and the use of  any type of fuel (the ElectroJet team chose to use regular gasoline); and finally
  • Modified – Pushrod Blown Fuel (M-PBF), involving the body modifications in addition to a turbo charger and a fuel of their choosing. 

“Blown-Fuel” indicates air is being forced (blown) induction, according to Lucido. The ElectroJet turbocharged motorcycle set a 48 mph record in the M-PBF category. “It was lower than the naturally aspirated motorcycle because of an electrical issue on the bike that limited how high the engine would rev,” explained Luicdo.

According to Schwulst, earning your stripes at Bonneville is intense. “We spent a LOT of time in tech inspection, and a lot of time waiting in line to race,” he said. Vehicle inspectors for Bonneville Nationals Inc. (BNI) are exacting when it comes to clearing a vehicle for salt racing and safety, he said.

Vehicles have to make two qualifying runs to obtain a record, Schwulst explained.  When it makes one qualifying run, the vehicle is impounded until the next morning at 6 a.m. when it makes the second confirmation run to “back up” the record.  The two speeds are averaged and the vehicle is painstakingly inspected to conform to vehicle class and engine displacement.  In this process, the engine is torn down for physical bore & stroke measurements and a quick check to see the pushrods before a speed record is fully confirmed. “Needless to say, we became good friends with the guys in the inspection area!” joked Schwulst.

“The BNI experience was incredible,” he said.  “Stepping on the salt flats is like stepping onto the moon. Standing on hard packed salt is a very interesting.  It almost looks like fresh fallen snow when you get out there, but the heat tells you differently,” he said.

The cars Schwulst saw at Bonneville were as unique as the natural environment. “As a car guy, it was exciting to see all the old iron being run on the salt.  There were a lot of vehicles from the 30s and 40s, a number of T-buckets, 32 Fords, rat rods, and custom built streamliners spread across the pits,” he said, adding that “the atmosphere of pure testosterone, race fuel, and deafening high speed passes of vintage race cars is something that will be hard to forget.”

Schwulst barely has time to savor the memories and celebrate the speed records before heading back to China to watch his record-setting electronic fuel injection systems roll off the production line. But then again, he enjoys racing from one thing to the next.

Written by Dawn Hibbard