Formula SAE Electric competition!
Lab Note #2
Jun 28, 2014
Portland State Viking Motorsports traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to compete in the international Formula SAE combustion and electric race car events June 18-21, for which we've been diligently preparing throughout 2013 and 2014. We competed with Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Purdue, University of Washington, and other top-rated engineering schools and racing schools in the country, and proudly represented Portland State University.
This ambitious project to complete a well-designed, technically excellent electric racecar has been very challenging, as well as an incredibly positive—effectively combining mechanical and electrical engineering exploration and learning. Many late nights and extraordinary months of tremendous teamwork moved the project forward toward its inaugural presentation. The 24-hour drive from Portland to Lincoln included several final improvements en route—gratefully, in Salt Lake City, effective muffling of the sounds of pounding a mallet into thick copper cable connectors resulted in no complaints from nearby sleeping hotel guests.
Troubleshooting on site at Lincoln Air Park during the competition improved our racecar’s functional electrical circuits, motor drives, motor controller, differential, steering, tires, double-checking that every nut and bolt was tightened securely. Only three of twenty registered racecars passed the rigorous electrical technical inspections and successfully raced in this international competition: Unicamp (Brazil), McGill (Canada), and UC Davis (USA). I've never seen an electric car race before, it is extremely quiet, but the performance is close to that of combustion. The fastest combustion car finished endurance laps in 89 seconds, Brazil's fastest lap was 101 seconds. McGill's electric car is 10 seconds faster per lap than their combustion car.
We all learned so much from the Formula SAE electric racecar competition opportunities—with specific feedback from technical inspections and direct observation and collaboration with other engineering teams. We've already been busy working to resolve identified problems, creating printed circuit boards for our tractive system active light, reworking the brake plausibility device and charger emergency shutdown, disassembling the differential for a new seal, and compiling the list of additional material needs.
Our team is very excited about the upcoming year—including plans for additional competition in May 2015 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire that provides specific technical engineering support in Portland beforehand, a return to the Lincoln Formula SAE Electric competition in June 2015, ongoing collaborative efforts with Portland State to improve Viking Motorsports, and effective incorporation of classroom learning with the immense practical learning we have experienced.