Competition: Formula Hybrid Speeds Ahead
An electric-only category debuted at the sixth annual Formula Hybrid International Competition, the Thayer-founded challenge to design, engineer, build, and race the best, fastest, most reliable, and most efficient hybrid racecar. Students from the United States, Canada, and Spain descended on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., in early May to put their engineering skills to the test in events for autocross, endurance, acceleration, design, and marketing.
The 24 teams that made it to competition (36 had registered) presented a flood of novel ways of tackling automotive and electrical issues. Universite de Sherbrooke (tied for 1st place, hybrid class; 1st place, design) mastered a paramount challenge the automotive industry faces today: the battery management system. Brigham Young University (tied for 1st place, hybrid class; 1st place, unlimited acceleration) worked closely with its battery supplier and motor manufacturer to optimize power. Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (3rd place, hybrid class) analyzed multiple hybrid solutions to justify its final choice. University of Texas Arlington (4th place, hybrid class; 1st place, endurance) designed and constructed a battery that was serviceable, easily manufactured, and highly functional. Dartmouth (5th place, hybrid class; 1st place, marketing presentation) concentrated on reliability and simplicity—and for the first time ever completed the 22-km endurance race. University of Kansas (1st place, electric class; fastest electric-only acceleration; fastest autocross lap) complemented an efficient mechanical design with an extremely fast electrical drivetrain. Illinois Institute of Technology (2nd place, electric class) experimented with four independently driven 40-hp motors to capture the power density and finite control inherent in electric motors.
Once again the competition showed that success in Formula Hybrid is all about teamwork. Mechanical engineers can’t ignore electrical systems, electrical engineers have to learn to integrate their work into a mechanical system, and software engineers find themselves interfacing with more than just a computer. Formula Hybrid is about bringing engineers from different disciplines into the same room together to design complex systems. It’s about a team of students pulling all-nighters and bonding over shared successes and failures. It’s about preparing a new generation of engineers to meet unsolved challenges and define new ones. And it’s about designing and building a badass racecar.
—Josiah Gruber Th’10