With innovative new vehicle, Wisconsin Racing excels at Formula SAE Electric competition

// Mechanical Engineering

Tags: students

Photo of Wisconsin Racing’s 2018 all-wheel-drive electric car

Wisconsin Racing’s all-wheel-drive electric car won first place in the design event and fourth place overall at the 2018 Formula SAE Electric competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Racing.

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With a cutting-edge vehicle powered by custom electric motors, Wisconsin Racing won fourth place overall at the 2018 Formula SAE Electric competition in Lincoln, Nebraska June 20-23, 2018.

For a second consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering student organization—officially, the UW-Madison SAE Formula Team—also earned first place in the design event for its electric vehicle. In addition, the team won the Cummins Applied Technology Award and took third place in the energy consumption category.

Austin Wooldridge, team principal for Wisconsin Racing and a mechanical engineering senior, says the students are very pleased with the competition results, which are especially impressive given that the electric team is only in its second year. In 2017, Wisconsin Racing placed eighth overall at the Formula SAE Electric competition.

“Instead of simply resting on our laurels and using the same system again, the design team, headed by tech director Max Liben, really pushed innovation, starting with custom electric motors,” Wooldridge says.

The team spent months perfecting the motor design, coupling it with a new planetary gear train, custom quad-inverter and new battery pack. The students also significantly updated the chassis on their new vehicle, which was the first all-wheel-drive electric car from a U.S. team to compete in every event.

With these innovations, the students reduced the weight of their car by more than 70 pounds, which helped boost the car’s performance.

“At competition, the judges were extremely impressed with all of these incredible designs and how they complimented one another as well as the extensive validation and analysis behind every decision,” Wooldridge says. “While some of the concepts were very ambitious and difficult to create, the team banded together and pushed through the challenges to get a great result.”

Wisconsin Racing’s combustion team was also successful in its competition, taking eighth place overall at Formula SAE Michigan in May 2018.

“Wisconsin Racing is considered one of the best American Formula teams and it all comes down to the passion of the students, the support of our sponsors and the university, especially our faculty advisor Glenn Bower and Professor Jaal Ghandhi, and the incredible vehicles we push ourselves to create every year,” Wooldridge says. “Students on the team are able to take the concepts they learn in the classroom and apply them directly to an incredibly difficult but rewarding project.”

Author: Adam Malecek