Slideshow: Students Put Fuel Efficient Cars to the Test

Budding engineers raced hybrid and electric vehicles in the annual Formula Hybrid Race

8 August 2012

Every year, teams of undergraduate and graduate engineering students from around the world gather at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, to burn some rubber. The students design, build, and race their high-performance electric and hybrid racecars in the Formula Hybrid International Race, now in its 6th year. IEEE cosponsors the competition, which was founded by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.

This year’s race, held 30 April to 3 May, saw a record 25 teams competing. The cars first had to pass safety and technical inspections. Next, representatives from auto manufacturers like General Motors and Ford judged the cars’ design, handling, acceleration, and of course, fuel efficiency. Then on the final day it was off to the 22-kilometer endurance race. Scores from that race were added to those from the other tests and winners were chosen in several categories.

The team from Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, and Universite de Sherbrooke, in Quebec, jointly won first place in the hybrid category. Universite de Sherbrooke also won the Ford Efficiency Award, which was one of several prizes also given for that category. The award was presented to the team that best engineered and executed an energy-efficient design, as judged by Ford’s hybrid car engineers. They looked at details like system sizing calculations, simulation methods, controls optimization, as well as actual energy consumption measured during the endurance event.

The University of Kansas, in Lawrence, triumphed in the electric-only class, the first time the competition has had such a category. The school also won two IEEE prizes, the Engineering the Future Award and the Excellence in Electric Vehicle Engineering Award. The Engineering the Future Award “considered the multidisciplinary makeup of the team, that the design contained all of the features of a proper racecar, and it created the desire to take it onto the track and see what it would do,” says IEEE Fellow Hal Flescher, who presented the award. For the Excellence in Electric Vehicle Engineering Award, teams were judged on their EV engineering process, from design goals to actual implementation and speedway performance. Preparation, team dynamics, and attention to detail were also considered.

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