The University of Kansas Jayhawk Motorsports team’s race for the checkered flag is taking a more eco-friendly approach this year.
For the first time in the program’s history, the team designed and built a hybrid vehicle for competition. Team members still plan to compete in the traditional Formula SAE car event as well, marking the first time Jayhawk Motorsports has prepared two cars at the same time.
“It’s always a challenge, there’s a lot going on, but that’s how it is every year,” said Jayhawk Motorsports team leader Abby Rimel, a senior in mechanical engineering. “We changed engines and developed two power trains this year. There’s been a lot to do, but our focus is still very good. Our advisers deserve credit for that. It’s crunch time, and we’re ready.”
While the team, composed of KU students enrolled in the Automotive Design and Senior Design Laboratory II courses and additional student volunteers, has been building a completely new vehicle for the traditional Formula car competition, they’re also been busy retrofitting the Jayhawk Motorsports 2009 vehicle for the Formula Hybrid competition, which is going on now at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. More than 30 teams from countries all around the globe are competing.
Rimel said the work to the 2009 vehicle included building a completely new drive train and redesigning a few rear suspension components to allow the electric motor and internal combustion engine to be packaged and mounted in parallel.
“This gives students a great opportunity to pursue and learn about different kinds of technologies,” Rimel said. “With the trend toward green initiatives in the automotive industry, it will certainly help each of us as we go into the work force.”
Work also continues on the team’s traditional Formula car entry, which will race in two international competitions later this spring — Formula SAE Michigan, featuring more than 120 teams, taking place May 11-14 in Brooklyn, Mich., and Formula SAE California, with 80 teams, taking place June 15-18 in Fontana, Calif.
In the traditional Formula competitions and the Hybrid competition, team members will be put to the test on how the cars perform and how they present them. They must explain to a panel of experts how they designed each car and why it’s better than the others at the competitions. The team also is put through a mock sales presentation in which team members must pitch how they’d get the cars out on the market. In the Formula SAE competitions, they are tasked with determining the costs to mass-produce the vehicle.
The team is also evaluated on four racing events. In both competitions, the cars are tested on acceleration in a 75-meter drag race. In Formula Hybrid, a second electric-only acceleration is run. In Formula SAE, the cars run a skidpad to test how many lateral g’s a vehicle can hold. The autocross portion of both competitions is approximately a 60-second race around obstacles with speeds reaching 70 miles per hour in Formula SAE and 45 mph in Formula Hybrid.
The Formula car and Hybrid car competitions each have an endurance test, which is a large-scale version of the autocross competition on a 13.7-mile course. Both races test fuel economy, though the hybrid competition limits the amount of energy the car can use.
For the students involved, it’s a hectic time — especially with the additional demands of preparing two cars — but Rimel said overall, it’s one of the most valuable experiences students will have in their college careers.
“Everybody on the team had a lot on their plates, especially with their parts and systems applied to two cars,” Rimel said. “People have done a really good job rising to the challenge. Everybody has something to contribute. Whenever you work on a project this big, you come to appreciate the strengths of each person in bringing it all together.”