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Local college students build futuristic race cars

May 07, 2013   |   by Steve Bottari   |

Their test track is the campus of the University of Vermont. Their car – built by students from scratch. The UVM race team isn't part of any class. Its members – all engineering students – say they put in the 60-hour weeks for the hands-on experience.

UVM racecar
UVM prepares for their brake test at the Formula Hybrid Competition. Photo by Kathryn LoConte Lapierre.

"The coolest part is the fact that we built it all and the fact that it handles like nothing I've ever driven," said Marc Soldini of UVM. "This thing is really fast. It's the fastest thing I've ever driven."

They say the race car easily hits 100 mph.

"We're ripping around campus. We probably hit 60 or 70 on campus," Soldini said.

But you don't build a race car just to ride around the quad. The students took their car to compete against 20 other teams from schools across the country, racing at New Hampshire's NASCAR track.

Oh, and did we mention all these race cars are hybrids?

For the seventh year, Dartmouth's engineering school has attracted major car companies to sponsor the event. They're just interested in what the teams come up with.

"The technologies that get developed in competitions like this – try it out in race cars – often find their way to the vehicles that we all end up driving," said Karen Endicott of Dartmouth.

DFR racecar
Dartmouth Formula Racing heads onto the track to test their suspension at the Formula Hybrid Competition. Photo by Kathryn LoConte Lapierre.

And for the first year, two teams' cars are fully electric. UVM's has a 144-kilowatt electric motor, which is equivalent to 192P horsepower.

"Tesla already has there electric cars out. A bunch of electric motorcycles are coming out. So, we think this car is kind of bridging the gap between these two and really is the future of it – of racing," said Chris Bilger of Dartmouth.

Despite how fast these kids say their electric race cars go, they don't expect to see them here in the NASCAR pits anytime soon.

"Our batteries weigh 200 pounds and our motor is another 140 pounds – which is pretty heavy. But as battery technology improves, racing's definitely going to shift toward electric," Soldini said.

Students shifting sustainability from the sidewalks of a college campus to victory lane at the Magic Mile.

The racers competed in design, acceleration, autocross and endurance. Both UVM and Dartmouth won events. The two teams say work starts now to build next year's car and make it go even faster.

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