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Dalhousie's FSAE EV Team Revs Up for Formula Hybrid & Electric Showdown

Posted by Engineering Communications on May 2, 2024 in News
Dalhousie's FSAE Electric Vehicle team gather for a team photo at the Formula Hybrid and Electric competition in New Hampshire, Loudon
Dalhousie's FSAE Electric Vehicle team gather for a team photo at the Formula Hybrid and Electric competition in New Hampshire, Loudon

One year after unveiling and competing with their first electric vehicle on the international stage, Dalhousie’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Electric Vehicle team is gearing up for their next challenge; Formula Hybrid and Electric 2024. 
With less than a week to competition, FSAE team captain, James McIntosh, rolls out the team’s newly-renovated electric-powered car and hops inside the driver’s seat. On this particular day, the senior Dalhousie mechanical engineering student is testing to make sure all components of the vehicle are primed for action ahead of the April 27th event.  
Since their debut competition at the Formula SAE Electric Competition in Michigan back in June 2023, McIntosh and his teammates have dedicated themselves to refining the vehicle's capabilities and safety measures.

 “Last year’s event didn’t go as expected,” he says, recalling the team’s setbacks at last year’s event. “But we learned where to make changes and we’re looking forward to competing in the Formula Hybrid and Electric event this year.” 
“We leave for competition in three days,” he adds as he steers the electric car towards the main parking lot. He and eleven of his teammates, including a mix of first and second year students will be participating at this year’s competition. 
Formula Hybrid and Electric competition in New Hampshire, Loudon

Formula Hybrid and Electric takes place each spring at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. The event challenges teams of university students to build and design formula-style vehicles. Each competition gives teams the chance to demonstrate their creativity and engineering skills against other university teams from around the world as they work to meet specific design specifications. 
The competition is part of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Collegiate Design Series and is regarded as the most complex and dynamic of the series. The four-day challenge includes a full safety inspection, design and management presentations, and an opportunity to race the vehicle on the speedway. 
“They judge everything; tire choices, frame and suspension design to every small decision made in our entire complex electrical system,” says McIntosh. “Once technical inspection has been passed, there is two days of dynamic racing, there’s an acceleration event, an auto cross event and an endurance event.”

An electric transformation

 Dalhousie's FSAE Electric Vehicle

The transition from internal combustion engine to an electric-powered vehicle has been a long road for the FSAE team. Since 2007, the team has built ten gas-powered cars and provided more than 300 engineering students with hands-on experience in areas such as automotive, manufacturing, design and leadership. Last year, the team received a generous $70,000 sponsorship from Halifax-based company Emera, paving the way for their much anticipated shift toward electric power. The financial support allowed the team to upgrade equipment and purchase the essential electric components including motor and control electronics.  
“These components will enable future generations of students to build electric drivetrains here at Dalhousie for years to come,” says Mitch Gregory, former Captain of the FSAE team. Gregory played a key role in driving the FSAE team from combustion to electric. In 2023 he stepped down as captain, but remained on as an advisor to students as he completes a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  
Over the past year, he says McIntosh and his team have made significant improvements to the original electrical vehicle built in 2023.  
“Competition rules are very strict and there are a lot of them,” he says. “That required the team to build a new and smarter electrical control module that interfaces with different components of the car. They also had to make a lot of little changes like mounting the motor controller off the battery and improving our wiring harness and routing of components.” 
It's been a rewarding experience for McIntosh who says he had big shoes to fill following Gregory’s departure as captain. As the team prepares to compete their electric vehicle at its second ever competition, he adds that he’s proud of the progress the team has made. 
“Over the past year, the team’s goal has been to pass the technical inspections, and compete in each of the dynamic events. We have made significant steps in ensuring our designs comply with the rules and taken the proper course to give us the best chance of succeeding at this years’ competition.” 
He says he’s also found immense fulfillment in mentoring younger team members, steering them in the right direction and preparing them for upcoming challenges.  

“Having our younger members join us at competition will allow them to experience the culmination of the annual project. We hope to have them experience the way that technical inspections are run, and what inspectors are specifically looking for. Further, during interactions with other teams, younger members can gain inspiration for future designs.”