Innovations: A Day at the Hybrid Races
Thayer School’s new Formula Hybrid International Competition raced to inaugural success May 1-3 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.
Student teams from six institutions — Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Institute of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, McGill, Yale, and Thayer School — competed in acceleration runs, autocross and endurance events, and design and marketing presentations. McGill emerged as the overall winner, with Embry-Riddle coming in second, and Yale third. Thayer School won the design event and placed second in the presentation event.
“Tina,” the main car of Thayer School’s two entries, gave students a chance to display some quick thinking on the track. When the car suffered a major electrical failure, the team managed to get it running in time to complete 11 of the 32 required endurance laps. And during those laps Tina showed off some impressive speed — averaging eight seconds a lap faster than the next fastest car.
Challenging students to design, build, and race cars with gas-electric hybrid drivetrains, Formula Hybrid aims at inspiring students to advance hybrid-engine technology, says Formula Hybrid Director and Thayer School Research Engineer Douglas Fraser. “Students are notoriously able to come up with novel solutions. They don’t go in with preconceived notions. They sometimes launch off in directions that you think, ‘My God, that won’t work,’ and, lo and behold, it does.”
The competition itself was a novel solution to a problem Thayer School students faced in 2003, when they hoped to enter a hybrid race car in that year’s Formula SAE competition. When changes in Formula SAE competition rules essentially disqualified hybrids, the students paved a road of their own: Formula Hybrid™. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) endorsed Formula Hybrid and joined with Thayer School and several other sponsors — including DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, and the U.S. Department of Energy — to underwrite the inaugural competition.
Fuel efficiency and recycling lie at the core of Formula Hybrid. A Formula Hybrid vehicle must use at least 15 percent less gasoline than a comparable “regular” formula race car operated under the same conditions. And unlike the Formula SAE competition, Formula Hybrid encourages teams to use parts of other racecars rather than build everything from scratch.
Formula Hybrid isn’t Thayer’s only green automotive innovation. This year, for the second year in a row, Thayer students entered an ethanol-fueled car in the Formula SAE competition, held May 16-20 at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich.
As for Formula Hybrid, plans are already underway for next year’s competition. All of this year’s teams have signed up. Not a bad track record.
For more photos visit our Dartmouth Formula Racing collection on Flickr.