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Dalhousie FSAE electric vehicle electrifies at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Posted by James McIntosh and Engineering Communications on June 11, 2024 in News
Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Electric Vehicle team posing with their 4th place trophy
Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Electric Vehicle team posing with their 4th place trophy

It was a year of learning and resilience for students on Dalhousie’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Electric Vehicle team. Despite a challenging 2023 season, the team is now celebrating an impressive 4th place finish at this year’s Formula Hybrid and Electric event in Loudon, New Hampshire.

In 2023, the students unveiled the first electric vehicle to be designed and built in Atlantic Canada, a milestone made possible through a generous $70,000 sponsorship from Emera. Although they faced setbacks at the debut competition in June 2023, the team powered forward, learning from their experiences and setting their sights on Formula Hybrid and Electric 2024.

Throughout the year, they were driven by a clear objective; to pass all technical inspections and to participate in each of the three dynamic events.

Formula Hybrid and Electric takes place each spring at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The event challenges teams of university students to build and design formula-style vehicles. Competing against university teams from around the world, the competition allows students to showcase their creativity and engineering skills while meeting specific design specifications. 
The event is part of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Collegiate Design Series and is considered 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,” said James McIntosh, Captain of Dalhousie’s FSAE team. “Once technical inspection has been passed, there are two days of dynamic racing, including an acceleration event, an auto cross event and an endurance event.”

Racing to the finish line

To compete in this year’s dynamic events, the team had to undergo a detailed scrutineering process. With only minor tweaks to their vehicle, they easily passed their electrical and mechanical inspections.

“The vehicle also passed the tilt test, where the vehicle is tilted to both 45 and 60 degrees to check for liquid leaks and rollover stability,” said McIntosh. “They also passed the noise test, requiring drive sound to be greater than 80dB from a distance of two meters away.”

Vehicle on the tilt table, being tilted to 45 and 60 degrees to check for fluid leaks, and test rollover stability.

Other inspections included the brakes test and a rain test.

“The final inspection was the rain test, where the vehicle is energized and sprayed with water for two minutes, followed by two minutes of rest, where the car is monitored for faults,” explained McIntosh. “This was essential to complete if the team desired to drive the vehicle in any wet conditions. The team once again passed on the first attempt.”

“Only after successfully passing all tests are teams permitted to compete in the dynamic events,” he added. “Dal FSAE team's hard work over the past three years paid off, with top 10 placements in all events dynamic.”

The team achieved their highest finish in the endurance event. Going into it, McIntosh knew the vehicle was designed with this challenge in mind.

The vehicle has the energy and power to really excel in this event. I was excited to see what we could do and how we stacked up against the other teams over the demanding 44km course.”

Vehicle presented with all inspection stickers.

The trio of Dalhousie's endurance drivers posing with the vehicle after the event was completed.

The team posing with their vehicle

The road ahead

Inspired by their success at the event, the team spent their journey back to Halifax dreaming and sketching new designs for next year’s electric vehicle.

While the experience served as a platform for innovation and teamwork, it also provided first year students such as Ashton Dudley with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom. Dudley joined the team last September, and later stepped up to lead the Low Voltage electrical system.

“The last year with the FSAE EV team has been one of my most rewarding experiences yet” he remarked. “Being in my first year on the team, it was incredible to learn the design process, and to see the amount of work put in by everyone.” Ashton will continue his role of Low Voltage Electrical Lead for the upcoming development year.

As James McIntosh graduates from Dalhousie’s Mechanical Engineering program, he will be stepping down as captain of the FSAE team. In his place, Alexandra Pimentel, also in the mechanical engineering program, will be jumping into the driver’s seat this upcoming year.

“We've learned a lot over the course of this build and are excited to take that knowledge and experience and apply it to the next one,” she says.  “I'm so proud of how far the team has come and our ability to work together to overcome encountered challenges.”

The team’s success this year would not have been possible without the generous support from Emera, whose sponsorship allowed the team to upgrade equipment and purchase essential electric components necessary to transition to an electric vehicle build. Thank you.