Hybrid SAE Racing: Can Electricity & Combustion Work Together?

The University of Michigan Formula SAE team recently competed in the Formula Hybrid International Competition. Closely related to the Formula SAE competitions we have written about in the past, Formula Hybrid is widely regarded as the most challenging of the SAE CDS competitions. As a matter of fact, an unofficial Formula Hybrid slogan is: “Formula Hybrid – Everything else is just too easy!”

Michigan Hybrid SAE Car

The competition includes acceleration, autocross and endurance events. Student teams design and construct a Formula Hybrid car powered by electricity and combustion, and are responsible for building all aspects of the car from high power electronics to mechanical systems.

One of the most impressive features onboard the University of Michigan car is a system known as the dSPACE MicroAutoBox II, which is an electronic brain designed to regulate the rpm’s of the two electric motors onboard. The electric motors power individual front wheels, which coupled with a 250cc combustion engine, enable the car to achieve superior acceleration. This feature earned U of M students the Chrysler Innovation Award, which came with a prize of $1,000.

Hybrid SAE Car

Formula Hybrid Co-Captain Kara Stoltze was kind of enough to put me in touch with A.J Jayasinghe, Aerodynamics Division co-lead, about just how the students designed this car. Body design was created using Solidworks, and the aerodynamics were analyzed using X-Flow, which is a software program by Next Limit Technologies.


After the car was designed and the students were sure they could make a mold based off the design, they used a CNC machine to create the molds using a combination of Precision Board Plus PBLT-10, PBLT-15, PBLT-20 and PBLT-30, donated by Coastal Enterprises. The molds were then coated with Duratec and allowed to cure before using them as plugs for the aerodynamic body and other interior components. According to Miles Justice, also Aerodynamics Division co-lead, the Precision Board Plus worked great because of how fast it machined and how easy it was to laminate together.

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Unfortunately on race day, the discovery of a fuel tank leak and a short in the cooling system during a pre-race technical inspection forced emergency repairs on the students before they could enter the competition. This caused them to miss the first two dynamic events with significant delays ultimately affecting their overall score. Continuing on and fighting hard, they still managed to take 4th place overall out of 12 competing schools.

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According to Kara, “The biggest challenge with Formula Hybrid is, by far, integrating the two powertrains to have a succesful hybrid. Getting both powertrains to work is one thing; getting them to work together is a whole different ballgame.” Coastal Enterprises would like to congratulate the entire University of Michigan Hybrid SAE team and wish them luck on next year’s car!

Hybrid SAE Car





SAE Battle At The Lincoln Airpark!

Congratulations to the University of Kansas “Jayhawks” SAE team on their very first SAE competition win. Coastal Enterprises was proud to assist in the construction of two top-of-the-line cars with our Precision Board Plus HDU donations. You may remember the two cars they built which we detailed in last weeks blog: Designing & Building A Race Car – What Does It Take?.

The Jayhawks took their completely volunteer/student built combustion car, the JMS12c, to the limit and succeeded in finishing first place overall at the Formula SAE race in Lincoln, NE, besting 27 other international teams.

The student engineers at the University of Kansas’ Jayhawk Motorsports are very diversified and many have never worked on a car before. Since the project involves all aspects of mechanical engineering, from suspension to steering forces, students learn how to work effectively as a team and, in effect, design a race car from the ground up.

Here’s a picture of the trophy these guys earned:

The winning car:

A very happy University of Kansas SAE team!

Video from race day featuring Jayhawk Student Trent Strunk:

Also check out a video of student engineer Nick Roberts on race day, competing in the Autocross event.

And another Video of Nick, competing in the Endurance event.

Great job Jayhawks!

Designing and Building a Race Car – What Does It Take?

Just what goes into the design of a race car? For the many people who have had the pleasure of driving or watching a sports car or professional race car, its quite apparent that some talented minds were involved in the engineering of such a masterpiece.

Nick Roberts is one of those talented minds and is currently a graduate engineering student in his sixth year as a member of the Formula SAE Team at the University of Kansas. These are the people who will be designing the race cars and sports cars of tomorrow. Unlike many of the other schools, the University of Kansas will actually be building 2 cars: a traditional combustion car, and a fully electric SAE car. While the combustion engine car will be competing in the traditional Formula SAE tournament, the electric car competes in the Formula Hybrid.

Coastal Enterprises donated Precision Board Plus HDU, which was used to make plugs for a variety of parts.

Here is a picture of the electric car, the JMS12e, with arrows indicating parts that were made from Precision Board Plus HDU plugs:

The combustion car, the JMS12c, also with arrows indicating parts that were made using Precision Board Plus HDU plugs:

One of the first things I asked Nick was how does the electric SAE car compare with the combustion car? Surprisingly, he responded that the lap times are as fast or faster. Nick claims this is because the rules allow for such a high power electric motor. Weighing in at only 450 lbs., the electric car is the fastest car they have ever built.

The University of Kansas SAE team, known as the “Jayhawks,” typically has anywhere from 20-30 student engineers that contribute to the design and build of the car. They are known for being skilled at composites work, and used Precision Board Plus HDU for 95% of all the composite tooling.

All of this practice building and designing formula SAE cars is a fast track towards entry-level positions in the automotive design field by promoting hands on skill in all aspects of design, testing, marketing, management and financing.

A video of the electric car in action:

Also check out a video of Nick Roberts winning first place in the combustion car.

You can see more info on their Facebook page.

The Anatomy of a Formula SAE Race Car

The University of Maryland Terps Racing team recently unveiled their brand-new 2012 Formula SAE car. They are looking forward to an upcoming first race, which will be held in Ontario, Canada on May 24th, and is known as Formula North. Over 70 school teams out of 1200 worldwide will be competing, and University of Maryland currently ranks 10th out of all 1200 schools. All of the individual school rankings can be seen here. They will be competing in two major races for Formula SAE, and will also participate in an additional 8 races for the SCCA, or Sports Car Club of America.


I had the opportunity to speak with C.J. Gorrell, student at U of MD and also Project Manager for the 2012 Terp’s Racing program, about some details of the new car. This year, Terps will be using a single cylinder 450cc Honda Dirtbike engine. This engine, coupled with the aerodynamic bodywork, will enable the car to accelerate from 0-60 in less than 3 seconds. They are also expecting it to pull 3-4 lateral g’s on the corners. Last year, the 2011 car used a Honda FY 600cc street motorcycle engine, and while it did have slightly more horsepower (60hp as opposed to this years 45hp), the lighter weight and improved design of the current car will enable faster lap times. They are also planning on turbocharging the car later in the season, which will bring the horsepower to 60+. A penalty is issued for using too much fuel, so keeping the displacement, and weight down are key to top results.


Aside from an improved engine configuration, lap times this year will also be decreased due to a major redesign of the car’s under tray. As referenced in our previous blog post: Terps Racing – 2012 Racecar Design, Coastal’s donation of high-density Precision Board Plus was used to make a 3d model of the under tray. This will add 150lbs. of additional downforce to the car and improve aerodynamics. In the past, students have used MDF to create master patterns, which took over 10 weeks for machining to be completed, as opposed to the 1-2 weeks Precision Board Plus took. They also praised the higher level of accuracy attained by using HDU.


Each race takes place on an auto-cross style track, and each team is ranked by time trials.  The track is quite narrow at 12ft. wide, and has many varying curves designed to challenge each driver. The University of Maryland will field 4 different race drivers, who were selected based on lap times from earlier tests. Speeds will reach over 60mph for the faster cars.

Check out the Terps Racing Facebook for many more pictures and regular updates on the car!

Also see the Official Terps Racing Website: http://www.terpsracing.com/

Here is a great video of the 2011 Terps Racing Car in action: