Auburn Family

From Classroom to Racetrack: Engineering Students Build Electric Race Car

Some Auburn men didn’t leave the love of model cars and thrill of Hot Wheel races in their childhood. They brought it with them to college and it’s anything but child’s play. 

Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) electric car team is made up of about 20 Auburn University mechanical and electrical engineering students working to build a fully functioning, electric car. Or race car that is, anticipated to achieve zero to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds when completed.

“I like cars, I have since I was younger,” said Stuart Coats, sophomore in mechanical engineering and chief chass engineer on the project. “I think it’d be really cool to design a race car, and the fact that everything is starting to become more and more electric oriented these days really peeked my interest.”

The university has other established Formula SAE teams, and now for the first time, an electric team has been added to the mix. Furthermore, Formula SAE electric is the only electric team in the southeast.

In mid-June, the team will be competing against other Formula SAE teams from across the globe at the SAE International in Lincoln, Nebraska. The car will be judged in areas such as cost efficiency, fastest time in autocross, battery endurance, and fuel efficiency, to name a few.

The participants started the project from scratch, acquiring funding, ordering parts and then assembling the car. Because this is the first year with an electric team, members are learning as they go.

“A few of us have worked on cars growing up so we have a baseline,” said Calvin Wagner, team captain and senior in electrical engineering. “But actually creating stuff from nothing… That’s what is challenging.”

Members do not receive class credit or scholarships for joining the team, but Wagner claims the hands on experience make the time and effort well worth it.

“You come into engineering and you can design anything you want,” Wagner said. "But, you come in here and actually make it.”

This has proven valuable not only classroom knowledge application, but also in landing dream jobs after college.

“Anyone of these teams [is beneficial] to get involved with, Wagner said. “People literally come in this building and recruit in this shop, they will mainline to the shops to recruit. I’m talking to a company right now that was a result of that.”

The team is has already received positive attention. Denso, a worldwide automotive components manufacturer, pledged $30,000 for this year’s competition and Alabama Power is currently discussing major financial contribution for next year.

(Photos: Used with permission, provided by Auburn FSAEE)

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