• Center for Global Environmental Education

  • Kevin Clemens
    Energy and Transportation Fellow

    Kevin Clemens with Motorcycles and Solar Panels

    Help us set our next electric motorcycle land speed record. Your donations help us go faster! 

    DONATE ONLINE - When prompted, choose "School of Education" and note "CGEE - Clemens Energy Fellow" to direct your donation to this project.

    As a member of our team, Kevin will be working to further CGEE's sustainability, engineering and transportation initiatives. Kevin is an alumnus of Hamline's Master of Arts in Education in Natural Science and Environmental Education (MAEd:NSEE) program. He has set a world speed record for electric motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Trials - not once, but twice! 

    His goal is to prove that electrification of transportation need not be boring and that future vehicles can provide opportunities for excitement and adventure. He is engineering and building two motorcycles to take to the speed trials again this year. 

    Learn more about Kevin's quest on his The Velocity Workshop website and  Team Minne-volt-a Facebook page.  

    What is the Bonneville Salt Flats? 

    Read below about his first three years at the Speed Trials:

    2011:  Like a Science Fair Project

    Author and engineer Kevin Clemens built an electric motorcycle to challenge the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  He set a National Land Speed Record, as recognized by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), by traveling 61.5 mph on his 150 kg, unstreamlined motorcycle. 

    If the objective had been simply to set a record, the effort would have been noteworthy—but Clemens wanted more. His goal was to prove that electrification of transportation need not be boring and that future vehicles can provide opportunities for excitement and adventure. The first record, set in 2011 was a good start, but Clemens had bigger plans.

    2012:  Looking for World Records

    Kevin Clemens built an all-new electric motorcycle for the Salt Flats. Based on a Kawasaki Ninja 250, the new machine used a high-tech DC permanent magnet motor built by Agni in India, lithium polymer batteries (the kind that model airplane enthusiasts use) from Korea, and an experimental controller built by Alltrax, Inc. in Oregon. The goal was to set both national and world records for 150 kg electric motorcycles in the unstreamlined and partially streamlined classes. 

    The effort was successful, with the establishment of four world records (recognized by the Fèdèration Internationale de Motocyclisme ) and two AMA national records during the last week of August in 2012. The fastest record set was at 78.4 mph, but Clemens wanted more—the elusive 100 mph.

    2013: Solar Power and The Fabulous Photon Torpedo

    To reach higher speeds required even better aerodynamics, and with the help of Tom Anderson of Siren, Wisconsin, Clemens developed an all-new fairing to help penetrate the air more smoothly. This required a redesign of the battery location to the rear of the machine. In addition, Alltrax developed a special 100-volt controller to push even more energy into the motors. 

    Kevin had one more trick he wanted to try on the Salt Flats. Every year he had recharged his batteries using noisy generators. Some calculations showed that the intensely bright sunlight hitting the Salt would provide plenty of quiet clean energy to recharge the batteries of his electric land speed record motorcycles. Minnesota-based tenKsolar came on board, providing two RAIS photovoltaic 190-watt solar panels that Clemens used for an effort that was truly “Powered by the Sun.”

    The highly streamlined motorcycle, now named “The Fabulous Photon Torpedo” reached a top speed of 98.7 mph, significantly faster than the previous class record of 68.848 mph and tantalizingly close to the 100-mph goal.  However, Clemens was unable to beat the speeds posted by a university team and eventually burned out his motor while trying. “The water-cooled prototype motor run by the other team didn’t even exist 6 months ago—it shows you how quickly technology is progressing. That’s a good thing, and pushing technology is one of the reasons we are doing this in the first place,” said Clemens. 

    Clemens also brought a small electrically powered sidecar motorcycle to the Salt Flats in 2013, and this secondary effort managed to break the existing record for 300-kg electric sidecars, achieving a speed of 54.651 mph. His effort was also powered by the sun. 

    The Bonneville Salt Flats

    The Bonneville Salt Flats is one of the most unique natural features in Utah. It is a remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville, which was created from receding seas. Wind and water combine to create the flat surface of salt. 

    The famous Bonneville Speedway is located in the western portion of the flats, near Wendover. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lake bed covered with snow. 

    The iconic venue has been the site of national and world land speed record attempts since the 1930’s. Because the hard-packed ultra-smooth salt surface extends for miles, it is possible to test vehicles to their top speeds. There are five major land speed events that take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats between August and October.  

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