During their Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond event, the Rensselaer Formula Hybrid gave freshmen a taste of what it does year-round deep in the labs of the Ricketts Building. Two groups of incoming freshmen were set on the daunting tasks of building a car frame and battery case. They were given no instructions, just the necessary parts and tools to build the car. As a result, the assembly process was a constant flow of questions and answers. Their questions touched on a range of information, from the proper placement of a switch to the complexities of electricity. The event allowed students to leave with not only a finished product, but a better understanding of the engineering and thought behind a Formula Hybrid vehicle.
“The extent of my knowledge is that I remember some electrical stuff from physics in high school,” said Karan Sarkar ’20, who, like most of the others, was fascinated by the idea of creating a go-kart from scratch. While students had varying levels of experience, enthusiasm more than compensated for any lack of expertise. Evan Engisch ’17, president of Rensselaer Formula Hybrid, noted that this group worked quickly and that assembly took roughly seven hours of work time. The go-kart was tested on a makeshift autocross course near Anderson Field. “In just over a day, they went from staring at a table of mismatched parts to racing and drifting around the parking lot course on something they had built,” said Engisch. The results were riveting, even for senior team members who were surprised by the kart’s speed.
This year the team added a second battery module, which doubled the power output available to the kart. The 40-volt battery in the past allowed the motor to attain 30 percent efficiency. The new 80-volt battery paired with a recent, specially designed motor greatly increased the efficiency, speed, and excitement for the NRB group. For their karts, the team uses both a gas engine and an electric motor to power the two rear wheels. The electric engine has all of its torque available as soon as the pedal is pressed, giving it an advantage over gas engines off the starting line. Once the car is moving, the team can switch to using the gas engine, which has an easier and more reliable power source. By combining the two engine types, the team is able to cover the weaknesses of the other engine.
For those interested in designing, building, and competing with Rensselaer Formula Hybrid, their meetings are held in Ricketts 211 on Mondays from 8–9 pm.