IIT Motorsports’ Electric Racecar Earns High Honors at Formula Hybrid Competition


IIT Motorsports, the race team put together by SAE-IIT, the Illinois Institute of Technology chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), competed at the Formula Hybrid competition at the end of the spring 2015 semester. Although they were not able to race their car in the competition, the team won several awards.

The team placed sixth overall in the electric category. They earned the second spot in the electrical design competition. General Motors awarded the team third place for Best-Engineered Hybrid System. Their unique car also earned them the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Innovation Award.

The event was organized by SAE and Dartmouth College, and has occurred annually since 2007. It is part of the SAE Collegiate Design Series, and is considered to be the most complex and dynamic event in the series. Both undergraduate and graduate students can participate in the competition, a design and engineering challenge where teams must design, build, and compete in an open-wheel, single-seat racecar with a hybrid or electric drive train. The competition emphasises drivetrain innovation and fuel efficiency.

The IIT car has several notable features that help it stand out from the crowd. The car utilizes four individual electric motors that are located in the hub of each wheel. No other cars at the competition utilize such a complex set-up to get their car going. The motors were custom designed and machined by students on the team. The car’s carbon fiber monocoque chassis was also hand built by the team. Students even had to build the oven needed to cure the carbon fiber during construction of the chassis. Another feature is the custom designed and machined brakes the team build to stop the car. The brakes are designed to convert energy lost during braking, back into electricity to help keep the batteries charged.

The competition has two categories of racecars that participate. Hybrid cars that utilize both electric and internal combustion engines and electric cars that rely on electricity only to propel themselves down the course. The IIT team competes with an all electric car.

The four-day competition was a marathon for both the vehicles and participants. During the first couple days the teams worked to ready their cars for electrical and mechanical inspections. The teams must pass these inspections before they are able to take their cars on the track. Teams got little sleep while preparing their cars and many teams never make it past inspections. This year, only five teams made it to the track.

Off the track, teams had to make presentations on their design and project management strategies to a panel of automotive and motorsport industry experts. The presentations were an important part of the competition and weighed heavily on the final score. Auto manufacturers also awarded monetary prizes to teams based on these presentations.

The pinnacle of the competition is when teams who have passed tech inspections compete on the track in three events that will test their cars abilities. The acceleration competition tests how fast their cars will accelerate over a distance of 75 meters. The autocross race tests the cars handling and maneuverability. The endurance/efficiency event test the vehicles ability to perform over an extended distance, up to 44 kilometers.

Only one team in the electric division made it to the track after the scrupulous tech inspections. The IIT team’s design impressed more than a few judges and race organizers, even though they were not able to get their car on the track in time. They will take the lessons learned at this event to improve for the next competition.

IIT Motorsports rolled into Lincoln, Neb. to compete at the Formula SAE event on Wednesday, June 17. At the competition the team competed in the electric division against 20 teams from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

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