Seven years in the making, engineers are finally putting together the first dry build of the near-legendary Bloodhound supersonic car – the British-based project to set a new 1,000mph land speed record.

Which is quite exciting, especially since the current record is a comparatively sedate 763mph. But the Bloodhound SSC, as it’s known, isn’t just being designed for speed; it’s also intended to demonstrate the latest thinking on the careful use and management of energy.

Efficient jet engine

For one thing, to reach its target speed, the Bloodhound SSC will have to be the most fuel-efficient Mach 1.4 manned vehicle ever made.

So it doesn’t use a car engine. Oh no.

When it takes its maiden jaunt across the Hakskeenpan desert in South Africa next year it will be packing a EuroJet EJ200 jet engine – that’s a military spec airborne propulsion device. It’s one of the smallest and most powerful military engines of its type and, crucially, burns small volumes of standard jet fuel, as used in commercial airliners. It will use a maximum of 200-250kg of jet fuel on its high-speed runs, which is a highly efficient payload.

The rocket engine vs a dairy cow

The rocket motor uses High Test Peroxide (HTP) as the oxidiser and HTPB, an aromatic rubber substance, as the fuel. The rocket will be used for many of the early runs using peroxide alone, which decomposes to produce steam and oxygen (up to 230kg of oxygen per run) and absolutely no CO2 emissions.

During later high-speed runs the rocket will burn most of the 180kg of HTPB and generate up to 400kg of CO2 for each run. That sounds like a lot, but compared to the fact it takes a lactating cow a little over a month to produce the same amount, it’s not bad at all.

The hybrid motor

Still, that won’t be quite enough, so its other power plant is a hybrid rocket motor, which will give it a 20-second boost to hit its peak speed. The fuel pump for the rocket motor is driven by a V-8 petrol engine, and for that quick burst of speed it shouldn’t burn more than 5 litres of petrol per run.

Sustainable design and build

So considering its high performance, fuel efficiency is very much part of the Bloodhound SSC’s DNA. But energy conservation is part of all other aspects of the production too.

Aside from a small office in Bristol, the majority of people working on the project in disparate parts of the world work from home and don’t commute. Cue travel, accommodation and utility savings with benefits for the environment.

And in manufacturing, with a requirement for 3,500 custom-made parts from some 340 different companies, the project is making extensive use of 3D printing technology, with significant reductions in production and transport costs. Given that the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) acknowledges that the bulk of F1 carbon emissions actually come from manufacturing and transporting the cars, this aspect of The Bloodhound Project will be as important as the car’s engine efficiencies in terms of environmental impact.

If all goes well Bloodhound SSC will do much more than just drive across a desert really fast – it will create a research legacy for high-performance energy-efficient working.

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