The design of the Comet streamliner: An electric land speed record motorcycle

Ethan Alexander McMillan, Purdue University


The development of the land speed record electric motorcycle streamliner, the Comet, is discussed herein. Its design process includes a detailed literary review of past and current motorcycle streamliners in an effort to highlight the main components of such a vehicle’s design, while providing baseline data for performance comparisons. A new approach to balancing a streamliner at low speeds is also addressed, a system henceforth referred to as landing gear, which has proven an effective means for allowing the driver to control the low speed instabilities of the vehicle with relative ease compared to tradition designs. This is accompanied by a dynamic stability analysis conducted on a test chassis that was developed for the primary purpose of understanding the handling dynamics of streamliners, while also providing a test bed for the implementation of the landing gear system and a means to familiarize the driver to the operation and handling of such a vehicle. Data gathered through the use of GPS based velocity tracking, accelerometers, and a linear potentiometer provided a means to validate a dynamic stability analysis of the weave and wobble modes of the vehicle through linearization of a streamliner model developed in the BikeSIM software suite. Results indicate agreement between the experimental data and the simulation, indicating that the conventional recumbent design of a streamliner chassis is in fact highly stable throughout the performance envelope beyond extremely low speeds. A computational fluid dynamics study was also performed, utilized in the development of the body of the Comet to which a series of tests were conducted in order to develop a shape that was both practical to transport and highly efficient. By creating a hybrid airfoil from a NACA 0018 and NACA 66-018, a drag coefficient of 0.1 and frontal area of 0.44 m2 has been found for the final design. Utilizing a performance model based on the proposed vehicle’s motor, its rolling resistance, and the body’s aerodynamic drag, the top speed is predicted at 226 mph. Further design considerations are also addressed, including the development of the component level layout of the motorcycle, weighing factors such as safety and ease of fabrication with that of performance and accessibility. At the time of composition, the Comet had started the fabrication process, and it is the intent of the author that the finished product competes in the 2016 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials to set the first world record for a single track electric motorcycle streamliner.




Sullivan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Automotive engineering|Mechanical engineering

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