Innovations: Formula Hybrid Races Ahead
By Kathryn LoConte
Fourteen student teams traveled from around the world to participate in the second annual Formula Hybrid International Competition in May at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Founded and run by Thayer School to challenge engineering students to create high-performance hybrid race cars, the event drew five more teams than the inaugural year.
This year’s American teams came from Dartmouth, Drexel, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Institute of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology (two teams), North Carolina State University, University of California-Irvine, University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Yale. McGill University in Canada, National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and MADI State Technical University in Moscow, Russia, also sent teams.
Day one of the three-day competition consisted of technical inspections and design and marketing presentations. Day two featured acceleration runs, the autocross competition, and design finals. The endurance event and awards ceremony were held on day three.
Like last year, McGill placed first overall, Embry-Riddle placed second, and Illinois Institute of Technology finished third.
Dartmouth took first place in presentation, unlimited acceleration, and the electric-only acceleration categories. “When the Dartmouth car did the acceleration run, jaws dropped,” says Thayer professor Charles Sullivan, an advisor to the Dartmouth team. “When it’s in electric-only mode, it sits on the starting line silently, so it’s a shock to see it go 75 meters in under 5 seconds — the equivalent of 0 to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds.”
Thayer School modeled the Formula Hybrid meet after the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition, in which Dartmouth students have competed for more than a decade. The key difference is that Formula Hybrid limits cars to a fixed amount of fuel. “That’s a challenge that proves difficult to master,” says Thayer research engineer and Formula Hybrid director Douglas Fraser, who organized the competition with colleague Wynne Washburn.
Formula Hybrid’s emphasis on fuel efficiency attracted a growing number of sponsors, including the SAE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Plug In America, Toyota, General Motors, and Chrysler.
The competition provides opportunities for sponsors and students to explore new technological solutions. “We believe that ideas developed for competition today may lead to everyday applications tomorrow,” says Fraser.
Students glean advice from one another, too. “McGill had a great car again,” says Dartmouth team member Calvin Krishen Th’07. “The main thing, though, is that they spent a lot of time testing it. We finished our car too late to be able to work out all of the quirks.” His advice for next year’s team: “Leave plenty of time for testing.”
— Kathryn LoConte is assistant editor at Dartmouth Engineer.