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Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

KU Electric Vehicle Earns Top Accolades at International Student Competition

Published on May 15th, 2012 by Michelle Ward

By Cody Howard

The Jayhawk Motorsports team earned three top awards at the Formula Hybrid International competition, which wrapped up May 3 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. The KU Formula Hybrid team placed first in the Electric-only category – and was recognized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics EnEECS students with the Jayhawk Motorsports Cargineers with two awards, Excellence in Electric Vehicle Engineering and Engineering the Future.

“In my opinion, Engineering the Future was the best award. It considered the multi-disciplinary nature of the teams, how well they worked together and ultimately the ‘most fun to drive,’” said Robb Sorem, associate dean of undergraduate studies and faculty adviser and course instructor for the KU Formula car team.

EECS seniors Emily Dellwig, Faiz Ahmed, Hilary Barbour, Aric Beaver, Alex Drees, Brett Hermann, Garrett Scarlett, and four mechanical engineering students spent their senior year designing, manufacturing and testing an electric Formula-style race car for their capstone project. Growing interest in hybrid and electric vehicles led JMS to begin including a green car along with its standard race car last year.

“It’s a great opportunity that allows students to get hands-on experience and to learn what is really like to have to problem solve in a fast-paced environment,” said Dellwig, who led the electric team for the second straight year. The inaugural hybrid team earned a top 10 finish at the Formula Hybrid competition last May. 

The KU race car also won first in the electric design competition, had the fastest run in the electric acceleration competition and the best overall time in the autocross competition, which challenges drivers to make one loop through a series of twists and turns around orange cones (without striking any of them) in the fastest possible time.

The team entered the final day of the competition in first place. The final day consists of only one event, the endurance competition, which is an extended version of the autocross competition, where drivers must complete 36 laps.

Battery troubles left the Jayhawk Motorsports car stalled on the track about halfway through its run. Unable to finish the endurance competition, the team received zero points and fell from the top overall spot. But Sorem said the team learned a valuable lesson and will account for the challenge in the design of its car for next year’s competition.

The Jayhawk Motorsports team also built a separate, traditional combustion engine vehicle for the Formula SAE Michigan competition, which featured nearly 120 teams and took place May 9-12 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

It turns out the KU’s Formula Hybrid car made the trip to Michigan as well, though not to race.

“Officials from SAE were at the Formula Hybrid competition in New Hampshire and were so impressed with our electric vehicle they asked us to bring it Michigan to display and demo. What great publicity for KU,” Sorem said.