Welding Repair Service Tech Sets World Records With Electric Dragster Charged By PipePro 304 Welding Generator
Dennis “Kilowatt” Berube’s fascination with auto racing began with a childhood hobby common to most of us: sitting on the hard floor and racing tiny electric slot cars in circles. That’s when he was seven.
Forty-seven years later, he stands on the cusp of breaking yet another world record behind the wheel of a dragster. The car he’ll drive in his record-setting attempt, however, has more in common with electric slot cars than you might think: whereas most dragsters run on gas and alcohol, the “Current Eliminator V” runs completely on electricity. Berube’s story is even more unique when you consider what powers the car’s batteries. To charge the dragster at the track, he uses a modified PipePro™ 304 engine-driven welding generator from Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
|World record holder Dennis Berube and his latest creation, Current Eliminator V. Berube’s right hand rests on one of the electric motors he custom wound for world record performance.|
Day Job Sparks Interest in Engines
Berube has worked in welding service and repair since 1973. He started as a Miller service technician in Connecticut before moving to Phoenix in 1978. It was there, as a service technician for Reliance Electric, that he began to tinker with electric motors.
“When it was slow, I’d slide over the motor department and learn about motors,” he recalls. “There was an old German there, Otto Frankie, who really taught me a lot of old tricks. There aren’t a lot of good DC motor people around anymore.”
|The DC Series One Motor that powers Smoke Screen with smooth acceleration throughout an entire run.|
Berube has become one of the “good DC motor people” and uses his knowledge to prove that an electric car can go just as fast as its combustion engine counterparts. In 1991, he built the first version of the Current Eliminator and powered it with a 10 horsepower (HP) DC motor. That dragster broke the world record for an electric car by completing the quarter-mile in 14.976 seconds at a top speed of 87.94 mph.
The last version of the car, the Current Eliminator IV, set a new record for an electric car by completing the quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds at 147 mph. Berube still has a way to go when you consider that the top fuel dragsters can complete the quarter-mile in about 4.5 seconds. That hasn’t stopped him from being a force on the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) Summit Racing Series (bracket racing) where he competes in the Super Pro class (7.00 to 11.99 seconds) against fuel-driven cars. The Current Eliminator IV made more prize money than any other car in Arizona in 2006. He also is one of the original competitors and record holders in the National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA).
Berube—despite his success—is not content to bask in the glow of his achievements. The new Current Eliminator V is set to smash the existing record for an electric car and further cement his legacy as the king of electric car racing.
|Logo on the side of the Current Eliminator V|
Current Eliminator V: Powered by a Welding Generator
The newest version of Berube’s Current Eliminator is designed to run the quarter-mile in 7.5 seconds at a top speed of 180 mph. The Current Eliminator V is pushed by a DC Series One Motor powered by a lithium battery pack from Altairnano. An inverter controller puts out 2,000 amps and 374 volts of power (versus 1,200 amps and 336 volts with the Current Eliminator IV).
Dennis Berube and Smoke Screen, a street-legal electric powered dragster.
“We’re shaving 110 pounds in battery weight off the car and adding nearly 500 horsepower with this new battery technology,” claims Berube. At a cost of about $200,000, don’t go looking for this battery in a standard electric vehicle.
On a typical racing day, Berube makes 10 trial runs. As smoking the tires and a quarter-mile run drain the battery, Berube must charge the battery between runs and charge it in a timely manner. Faced with this need, Berube turned to his expertise as a welding service technician to create the ultimate portable battery charger.
Berube took Miller’s PipePro 304 welding generator, which normally produces12,000 watts of 1- or 3-phase power, and modified it to produce 18,000 watts of power. By “tweaking” the PipePro 304, Berube can charge his car in less than 15 minutes.
“I disconnected the inverter and just use the generator part of the machine,” explains Berube. “I also designed my own field circuit to control the magnetic field in four different steps for four different charging patterns on the batteries.” (Editor’s Note: Do not try this at home. Berube is an expert at servicing welding machines and modifying motors).
|The rear trunk of Smoke Screen houses the truck’s inverter, charging module, air compressor, controllerand DC converter.|
This unauthorized use of the PipePro 304 is as equally successful as it is unique and plays an important role in the success of the Current Eliminator V. Berube’s penchant for tinkering with his cars and equipment like Dr. Frankenstein has paid off yet again. St Formosa Raceway in Sacramento, Calif., Berube drove his newest car to a time of 8.801 seconds at a top speed or 149.1 mph.
“I’m a very competitive person,” explains Berube. “I like to stay number one. Soon we’ll be building a new car and aiming for a time in the 5-second range for the quarter-mile.”