Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Competition: Ten Years of Formula Hybrid

Rochester Institute of Technology car in inspection
GM technical specialist Scott Lananna ’08 Th’09, second from left, inspects the car built by RIT’s all-female team. Photograph by Kathryn Lapierre.

The garage bays at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.,mwere filled with nervous energy at the 10th annual Formula Hybrid Competition, held in May. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students welded, keyed in computer simulations, and used their share of duct tape as they strove to get their hybrid and electric cars ready to race.

Founded by Thayer School in 2006, Formula Hybrid challenges students to build high-performance, fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. The task remains difficult to achieve, requiring students to work across disciplines to engineer innovative systems—and then compete in design, acceleration, and endurance events, the latter on a fixed amount of fuel. “Formula Hybrid is the hardest of the SAE student design competitions,” says Thayer research engineer and competition founder and organizer Douglas Fraser.

This year, to help the teams succeed in building cars that would pass technical inspection, Formula Hybrid provided new management guidance and opportunities to work with professional mentors throughout the year. The competition also added an optional Tech Day to give teams more time to pass electrical inspection.

By the end of competition, Canada’s University of Victoria took first place in the hybrid drive class, Binghamton University won first place in the electric drive class category, and India’s SRM Engineering College secured first place in the hybrid-in-progress category.

Thayer School’s Dartmouth Formula Racing (DFR) team worked from last year’s car and made some innovative improvements, including installing a bamboo fiber body. This year’s car featured a hybrid controller and a parallel motor, in which the engine and the motor work together to drive the rear wheel of the car, and the dashboard held an iPad mini to stream data live from the vehicle.

Despite working around the clock, DFR never made it onto the track. “We did not race at competition this year,” says DFR co-captain Margaux LeBlanc Th’16. “It was really heartbreaking to watch us work so hard, get it working on the last day, and never pass mechanical inspection because of a few things in our cockpit.” Even so, the team placed second in the hybrid-in-progress category.

This year’s event attracted 28 teams, including the first-ever all-female team, Rochester Institute of Technology’s Hot Wheelz, which placed third in the electric drive class category and took home the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Gracious Professionalism Award and the GM Spirit of Formula Hybrid Award.

Fraser is happy with what the competition has achieved over the course of 10 years. “Many Formula Hybrid alums are now working in industry, and a lot of them are returning to the competition as judges and inspectors,” Fraser says. “We hear great feedback from these alums about the value of Formula Hybrid in their careers. One of them went to work for Tesla, and he said everything he had learned in the Formula Hybrid competition applied to his work.”

—Kathryn Lapierre

Categories: The Great Hall, Competition

Tags: formula hybrid, race cars, students

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