Formula Hybrid v2.0
The second Formula Hybrid International Competition (May 5-7, 2008) just wrapped up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Originally conceived and again hosted by Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, the event attracted 15 teams, up from the 9 teams who entered in 2007.
The essence of the challenge presented to the student teams was to produce a car that consumes 85% or less fuel than the average Formula SAE car during equivalent events.
Of the 15 entrants, 8 fielded cars that ran in one or more of the driving events, which consisted of:
- Electric acceleration
- Unrestricted Acceleration
McGill Formula Hybrid Racing (McGill University, Canada) won for the second consecutive year. ERAU Racing (Embry-Riddle Aero University - Daytona Beach) finished runners up, matching their position from the previous year too. ACE Formula Racing (Illinois Institute of Technology) finished third, building on their strong showing using an electric demonstration car in 2007. Hosts Dartmouth Formula Racing-Hybrid finished a respectable fourth, after a problem-plagued entry in 2007 resulted in an unclassified finish.
McGill's 2008 winning car was a refined version of their 2007 winning entry. It used a serial hybrid system where the gas engine is not directly connected to the driven wheels (unlike a parallel hybrid system used on production cars such as the Toyota Prius). The McGill gas engine charges lithium batteries that then power 2 electric motors. Also regenerative braking is used to recover energy usually lost as heat while braking. Another key ingredient for fuel efficiency and racing car design is to minimize weight. The McGill car was the lightest of all the functioning cars at 700 lbs.
Room for Improvement
Given that only 2 cars (McGill and ACE Formula Racing) completed the endurance event, there is still plenty of room for improvement and innovation, especially it seems in terms of reliability. With such a new formula and such complex transmission systems it's no surprise that reliability is an issue. No doubt as the teams develop their knowledgebase and pass on lessons learned to future generations of Formula Hybrid builders we can expect reliability to improve.