Formula Hybrid Trains The Automotive Engineers Of The Future

Anyone who reads Gas2 regularly knows we feature stories that focus on the cars of tomorrow — autonomous cars, connected cars, low or zero emissions cars. Auto manufacturers are hungry for talented engineers who can design and build the cars of the future. But where to find them? Graduates of the Formula Hybrid competition are a good place to start.

Formula Hybrid

The Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College is one of the oldest and most respected engineering schools in the country. Together with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Thayer School it has sponsored the annual Formula Hybrid competition for 11 consecutive years.

The Formula Hybrid mission is simple. Its brief to each of the teams is to imagine they have been hired to create a small Formula-style race car. The prototype will be evaluated for its potential to become an actual production car. The target market is the non-professional weekend autocrosser. Although the concept is simple, the execution is far from it. Teams are given an extensive set of rules to follow and must submit drawings and specifications to the organizers at stated times during the year. There competition is divided into three categories.

The Hybrid class requires the cars to use an internal combustion engine in conjunction with an electric motor. The engine cannot exceed 250 cc if fueled by gasoline. Diesel engines are limited to 310 cc. Any single cylinder engine may be modified but any multi-cylinder engine must be stock. There is a Hybrid In Progress class for teams involved in a two year engineering at their school. An Electric class is reserved for cars that use electric power exclusively.

Regenerative braking is encouraged. In addition to building the race cars and installing the engines and motors, the students must also design and build the battery management systems, inverters, and power control systems that allow the various drivetrain components to work together.

Efficiency standards are strictly enforced. So are dynamic and safety standards. The cars are put through their paces every year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where they compete in acceleration. autocross, and endurance tests. This year, 20 teams entered the competition, including one from India and one from Canada. There is a similar competition called Formula Student that involves technical universities in Europe.

When all the scrutineering is done, all the business plans reviewed, and all the tests completed, the students return to their respective colleges and universities with a deeper understanding of the engineering principles they learned in their classes. They know what works and what doesn’t in the real world. That makes them highly sought after by manufacturers trying to stay on the cutting edge of technological change.

Book learning and test scores are no substitute for practical, real world experience, which is why Formula Hybrid contestants are preferred when its time to frame the sheepskin and find a real job. One point is worth special notice in all this. The Thayer School of Engineering is the first comprehensive research institution with more women then men in its graduating class of engineers. Many of them participated in the Formula Hybrid competition.

Source and photo credits: Formula Hybrid

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.