Formula Electric Racecar

I had been looking forward to my senior at Lafayette ever since I was accepted in 2013 – not because I wanted to graduate, but because I could finally work on the Formula racecar.

School racing logo

In 2016-2017 Lafayette switched from building IC cars to electric cars. The electrical engineering department had been building/designing their own batteries/drivetrain over the previous 5 years and they finally implemented it into a full size car.

I was voted team leader by my teammates which made me responsible for project management, setting deadlines, and pushing progress. I also enjoyed my second (sometimes primary) duty: certified TIG welder.

The car as we inherited it

The first thing we did was comb through the rules and figure out areas that were out of compliance – one of our biggest nightmares was getting the right seat geometry. The main role hoop was a bit short so we needed to slide the driver’s hips forward to get his/her head down.

The electrical side of our team worked on the batteries and motor programming. One of their biggest challenges was meeting rule compliance with cabling – we had to switch to double insulated cables install strain relief on everything.

Frame on the welding table with new uprights and brakes

We tore the car back down to the bare frame. We had to add structural members, new battery mounts, and new rear pickup points. We also designed new uprights/brake discs to give us more stopping power.

Test driving on the welding table
Rolling chassis day! This was a big milestone for us and gave us another boost. Although, it did reveal a lot of problems.
Starting the installation of the drivetrain – awaiting new, correctly sized half-shafts
Driveshafts installed – I probably took this rear end apart 10 times
Making sure Percy is happy
Robbing parts off of a previous car in the lobby of the engineering building
Electrical integration begins
And electrical integration stops as I find a stripped thread that needs a helicoil
Slowly starts coming to life…
Test fitting the fiberglass body
More electrical integration in preparation for the first test drive
New paint, batteries installed, ready for a drive!
Maiden voyage with my co-captain, Waseh, at the driver’s seat
As expected, the first drive revealed problems that needed to be addressed
The bearings kept popping out of the a-arms. I machined that pushing to keep them in place/heat sink as I tack welded supports over them. Ideally we would have redesigned this but we were pressed for time.
Emergency aluminum run for new firewalls
Presenting our progress to local Formula chapters
After more testing/repairs we were ready to go to Formula Hybrid!
Greeted with a trophy!
Heading through the gate
Arrived, unpacked, and started working

One of the judges told me that “it is highly unlikely a first year team (us) makes it through technical inspection.” This lit a fire under our team and we worked until the garages closed until midnight everyday making sure our car would pass inspection.

Passed all 5 parts of inspection!
The moment we completed tech inspection. Not sure what I was doing with my hands.
On track at Formula Hybrid!

Our car/team did extremely well for a first year team. Overall, we were one of 6 cars to get on the track and we won 4th place overall in the electric division.

4th place Formula Hybrid award

Our team also won Fiat Chrysler’s “Gracious Professionalism” award.

Gracious professionalism award
Back on campus, putting on some miles before graduation.