Plug In America, the non-profit plug-in vehicle advocacy organization, has awarded grants of $15,000 each to student teams at Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Irvine and UC San Diego to design, build and race plug-in hybrid cars in the 2009 Formula Hybrid International Competition. There are 30 teams registered for this year’s competition.
The grants, intended to encourage engineering innovation at California colleges and universities, were funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
This year’s Formula Hybrid International Competition will be held 4-6 May in Loudon, NH, at the New Hampshire International Speedway. It is organized by the Dartmouth College Thayer School of Engineering.
|High Voltage ultracapacitors used in a Formula Hybrid racecar. Copyright 2007 Jay Friedland. Click to enlarge.|
Formula Hybrid is an offshoot of the highly successful Formula SAE, a program sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers in which collegiate teams design, build and compete with formula racecars. Formula Hybrid originated in 2003 when Dartmouth engineering students began researching their first hybrid racecar in hopes of entering it in that year’s Formula SAE competition. They developed a hybrid competition upon learning that the Formula SAE rules had been changed to disallow hybrids.
The competition is a sort of educational hybrid itself, bringing together applications of mechanical and electrical engineering. Both the SAE and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are sponsors of the program, along with Plug In America and major automakers including Toyota and General Motors.
Under the program, students design and build an open-wheel, single-seat car that must conform to a strict set of rules, or formulas, that emphasize, encourage, and promote drivetrain innovation and fuel efficiency. A Formula Hybrid vehicle must use at least 15% less gasoline than a comparable standard Formula SAE racecar operated under the same conditions, a goal surpassed by many of the entries.
Another guideline involves recycling: unlike Formula SAE, Formula Hybrid teams are encouraged to incorporate used racecar parts rather than build everything from scratch.