Team Bath Racing Electric success at 2018 Formula Student Competition

Posted in: Celebrating success, Staff insight, Team updates

Authors: Peter Wilson, Ben Metcalfe and Joe Flynn

It gives us great pleasure to provide you with a summary of Team Bath Racing Electric's (TBRe) performance at this year’s Formula Student UK event.

Highlights and Achievements – Class 1 (Race Car)

  • 1st placed UK electric powertrain in Class 1
  • Winners of Santander Most Improved Electrical Vehicle prize (£5,000 cash prize)
  • 2nd best overall in efficiency ratings during endurance testing
  • Runner up in Class 1 Business event
  • 3rd best electric powertrain in Class 1
  • 17th Place overall in Class 1 (out of 81 petrol and electric teams)
  • 11th overall UK team in Class 1, narrowly missing the Top-10
  • Improved by 22 places from 2017

Highlights and Achievements – Class 2 (Paper-based Design)

  • 1st place overall in Class 2 (out of 35 petrol and electric teams)
  • 1st place score in Class 2 Cost event
  • 3rd place score in Class 2 Design event
  • 5th place score in Class 2 Business event

Introduction

TBRe entered two teams this year once again. The class 2 entry mainly formed of third-year engineering students from Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and the class 1 entry race team across all years but mostly final-year students.

After many months of design, build and testing, the TBRe 18 team was in the position to take a fully running and tested race car to the Formula Student UK event at Silverstone for the first time since the team was formed in 2015. The overall goal of the team at the start of the year was to build a reliable car and to complete every event successfully.

We would also like to highlight the extremely high level of professionalism shown by the team with excellent communication, leadership and strategy throughout. The team stuck together throughout an extremely tiring and stressful period, were the best prepared and organised student team I’ve ever seen, and were a credit to the University of Bath.

Background and build up to the competition

TBRe has now been competing in Formula Student for three years. In TBRe’s first year (2016), just a few months after formation, the team travelled to Silverstone with an incomplete car. Despite failing to pass all the required elements of scrutineering, they gained valuable competition experience and received useful feedback. In 2017, the team and car progressed significantly, passing all scrutineering tests including:

  • technical safety
  • braking performance
  • vehicle stability
  • wet weather safety
  • driver egress and more

It must be emphasised that scrutineering is exceptionally challenging in terms of technical difficulty and time-management perspectives. This is compounded by the addition of three electrical system safety checks on the accumulator (battery), low-voltage systems and combined electrical systems for electric vehicles in the competition. As such, last year’s team were unable to compete in all dynamic (racing) events due to the time taken in the scrutineering process. Nevertheless, passing scrutineering was an excellent achievement and an important milestone in the team’s history – in fact being one of the first UK teams to pass this challenge.

Having reflected on the challenges associated with vehicle reliability and safety, this year’s team rigidly upheld an ethos of ‘reliability first’. The mission for FSUK in Silverstone was to compete in all static and dynamic events, thereby maximising all point-scoring opportunities. As with previous years, the car was packed up and transported to the event accompanied by mainly third and final-year students. The third-year students were primarily competing in the Class 2 event, which is a paper-based design of a race car and development of associated cost schedules and business proposals. The final-year students, recently buoyed by their graduation celebrations, were largely competing in Class 1, which involves designing, manufacturing and racing a real electric race car.

Day 1: arrival

The team was in good spirits as it arrived on the Wednesday - setting up camp and unpacking the car, tools and electrical instruments into the pit. Confidence in the vehicle was high, although there were some aspects of the performance that still remained uncertain. In particular, the ability of the car to comfortably pass the braking test and complete all 22 laps of the endurance circuit without developing a mechanical or electrical fault. At 23:00 the pit closed and the team retired to the campsite for some well-deserved rest.

Days 2 and 3: scrutineering and class 2

The aim for days 2 and 3 was to complete all scrutineering events, including technical safety, electrical systems, tilt test, brake and noise test, and several static events (with design, cost, sustainability and business preparation). Then they moved on to the first dynamic events (skid pad, sprint, acceleration).

Although ambitious when compared with previous years, the car was in good shape and the ethos of reliability had led to an inherent simplicity and serviceability of the vehicle. The team got off to an excellent start as they quickly became the first electrical vehicle team to pass the accumulator stage of electrical testing. This is an incredibly important stage due to the safety issues associated with battery technologies and the design passed with flying colours!

At the same time, the third-year students had been diligently attending to their Class 2 duties. This included presenting their paper-based design and costing rationale. As previously mentioned, Bath teams have form in these events due to the integration of the competition team efforts with the GDBP and FYP programmes. That being said, there was clearly stiff competition in the rest of the field, not least from the Bath combustion team, TBR. After the presentations, the traditional aloof feedback was given from the judges, such as (paraphrasing): “the bar was set high, and you’ve gone some way towards meeting it” and “I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your scores”. The Class 2 students would have to wait another two days to find out how they had scored.

The Class 1 team was set to complete further aspects of the electrical scrutineering. However, complications with an electrical device (braking system plausibility device) prevented the team from progressing further. This hold-up was the first test of character for the team and could easily have dampened spirits with regard to the scrutineering process. However, with a cool head, the decision was taken to empty the pit of all unnecessary team members, leaving behind the electrical team who would systematically debug the electrical fault. Working late into the evening once again, the team identified and rectified the issue for another attempt first thing in the morning.

The team got up especially early and wheeled their repaired vehicle towards the front of the queue for the low-voltage electrical systems checks. The repair had successfully removed the issue and the team were able to progress through the remainder of the electrical safety scrutineering. From the team’s perspective, the hardest tasks were now complete.

The rest of the scrutineering process ran smoothly and in a number of hours, the team had completed all but the noise and braking checks. In the latter, the car must accelerate down a straight, apply the brakes at the first set of cones, lock up all four wheels and then stop before a second set of cones. Up until this point, the car had only managed to lock all four wheels once in testing. The driver powered up and then began accelerating down the straight section. Due to the startling acceleration produced by the single electric motor, it appeared that the vehicle entered the braking zone very fast. However, as the driver stamped on the brakes, all four wheels locked-up, there were no signs of braking-steer pulling the car the one side, and the rear of the car was just about in the braking-zone when it stopped. A huge cheer came from the rest of the team on the side-line as the thumbs-up was given from the judges, marking the completion of the scrutineering process. As the car was wheeled off the course, it immediately became apparent how much this milestone meant to the team. As the driver removed his helmet, there were tears of relief and elation from the technical lead.

Class 1, day 3: racing!

The class 1 event for the electric vehicles in the competition requires not only the technical scrutineering required for all vehicles but specific scrutineering for the accumulator (battery pack), electrical systems and a rain test (while the car is powered up) before the car is allowed to race. TBRe were the first electric team to pass scrutineering and this gave the team a real chance to achieve the primary goal of this year which was to complete all of the events. The teams also have to complete “static” events and TBRe came out 11th overall in the design event, and qualified for the business final, eventually coming 3rd.

Having cleared scrutineering, the team were able to attack the dynamic events. The decision was taken to focus on the Acceleration event due to the remarkable torque delivery of the electric powertrain. This was not without difficulty, as the car was not equipped with traction control and the delivery of the power down to the tyres had to be controlled through careful use of the throttle to avoid spinning the wheels. After four attempts across two different drivers, the team posted a respectable time, which would later secure the team 16th position out of the 40 teams to have passed scrutineering at that point.

Similar attainment came in the skid pad event in which the car must complete a very tight figure of eight circuit at high speed. After a number of attempts the final ranking was 23rd out of the 42 teams that had passed scrutineering. Most importantly, the car was still in good shape and was set to compete in the Sprint and Endurance events.

The final event of the day was the sprint event in which two drivers each get two attempts to record the fastest team lap around the racing circuit. This circuit includes long straights, hairpin bends, slaloms and chicanes. To the untrained eye, the course looks ferociously narrow! The team firstly secured a clean but slower run without incurring any penalties for hitting cones. This came in at 73 seconds. Between the two drivers, they were able to reduce this to 67 seconds, placing them mid-table. Again, given the relative inexperience of the team, this was an excellent achievement.

During the sprint event, one of the judges noted that the nose cone of the car was scrubbing the ground during some of the tighter manoeuvres. This led to the judges revoking the team’s technical scrutineering sticker. Although this sounds dramatic, it was an issue that was quickly corrected by the team who adjusted the ride height through the suspension assembly. Within a couple of hours, the scrutineering sticker was back on the car.

The TBRe car completed in every dynamic event heat, with no reliability issues throughout, and achieved very solid times across the board. It was especially pleasing to be able to run every heat in every event with no DNF (did not finish) and to complete every heat with increasingly faster times, providing the team with valuable track experience and a chance for various drivers to handle the car.

Saturday awards

As the day came to a close, there were murmurings around the pits that the provisional Class 2 results were about to be released. It looked as though both TBRe and TBR had done very well but it was difficult to know for sure who had won. After a couple of hours the uncertainty lifted and it became clear that TBRe were provisionally in first place. Later that evening, at the award ceremony, the announcement was made that TBRe were the overall Class 2 winners of Formula Student 2018 (placing 1st in the cost category, coming 3rd in the design category and 5th in the business category). With a huge cheer, the team took to the stage to collect two trophies: one for the best score in the cost event and one for the overall winners. Well done TBRe! An outstanding achievement! We are really excited to see what race car the team will come up with for 2019.

Another highlight came from the Class 2 awards ceremony in the form of the Spirit of Formula Student Award. This year’s winners were an all-female team from Pakistan who, in the words of the prize giver, had overcome various prejudices in their pursuit of entering the Formula Student event. This team also marked the first all-female team to compete at FSUK in Silverstone. As they took to the stage to receive their award, they received (also in the words of the prize giver) the first standing ovation ever to be witnessed by the prize-giver at an FSUK event.

Class 1, day 4: more racing!

The final day of Formula Student is the endurance event (22 laps) and the fuel economy (efficiency) event. After two stints of 11 laps the TBRe car completed all 22 laps to finish this event in 23rd place. This was the first time TBRe had completed this event and meant that the team had achieved its goal of completing every heat of every event successfully. At the conclusion of the endurance event, it was announced that TBRe had achieved 2nd place in the efficiency category, a testament to the team’s careful management of the car throughout. From a technical perspective, the car ran faultlessly through the entire event, which attracted favourable comments from sponsors and observers, and the team managed the high temperatures throughout the event, keeping a close eye on battery temperatures to ensure safe and reliable operation throughout, managing the pace of the car to ensure maximum reliability and efficiency. This again reinforced the team ethos of “reliability first” and ensured the highest points by  a significant margin achieved by a TBRe team.

After all the results had been consolidated, TBRe was placed 17th overall (a jump of 22 places from 2017), 11th UK team overall, 3rd placed EV team and 1st place UK EV team for the second year in a row. TBRe was also awarded the Santander prize for the most improved electric team, which will provide a significant boost to the budget for the TBRe 2019 team!

Summary

Overall this has been a hugely successful year for TBRe, with our best finish by far in the Formula Student UK event, our inaugural 1st place (class 2), and Top UK EV team (again). For the first time TBRe will also be competing in an international event, having been invited to represent the UK at Formula Student China later in 2018, so the team is looking forward to racing the car once again and going even faster!

The success achieved by TBRe is down to many people who have taken part or supported the team including the Faculty of Engineering & Design, Departments of Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, project supervisors and faculty, technicians, support staff, sponsors, families and most importantly of all the students who put in so many hours of their free time (all the while trying to finish their degrees!) – to all of you – Thank You!

Peter, Ben and Joe

Posted in: Celebrating success, Staff insight, Team updates