Change the world

Racing

30/01/2012

Following on the successful development of DibaOne, NMMU Racing’s first Formula Student racing car, and the incredible experience of competing in Germany against over 100 international teams, NMMU Racing went back to the drawing board to lay the foundation for DibaTwo.

Fueled by an awareness of the need to focus increasingly on environmentally friendly designs, NMMU Racing decided to launch a new strategy dubbed “Green Technology” or GT for short.

NMMU Racing GT has a two-pronged focus, namely renewable energy and renewable materials.

In order to fully explore the renewable energy opportunities for DibaTwo, NMMU Racing is developing an electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, and managed by electronic systems which not only control the brushless DC electric motor’s performance, but monitor temperatures, voltages and current, to implement failsafe procedures in the event of a dangerous condition.

Although this will once again be a first for South Africa, the Formula Student event globally has developed a special category for electric-powered Formula Student cars, which in the last three years has seen the participation grow from a handful to over 30 electric cars in the German event alone!

The “Formula Student Electric” competition has its own set of stringent rules, which cover safety and performance aspects of the powertrain and mandates the fitment of an energy meter, requiring the car to produce no more that 100kW of continuous power. All vehicles are checked after the race to ensure compliance with these rules.

In addition to the typical static and dynamic events, electric cars under go a water test to make sure that no electrical contacts are affected in the event of rain. Many drive configurations are currently in use by teams including a single, dual or three motor layout, allowing the implementation of such technologies as hub-mounted motors and torque-vectoring. Although an electric powertrain is typically at least 50kg heavier than a combustion engine, considering the weight of the batteries, the top electric cars out-perform combustion cars in the acceleration event! The photographs on the left show the variety and complexity of electric cars at the 2011 Formula Student Germany event.

NMMU Racing is recruiting P1 and BTech electrical engineering students for the first time, through the cooperation of the Electrical Engineering department to assist with the development of the electric car.

Ground breaking research into alternative “renewable materials” is underway to substitute for traditional composites, and collaborative links have been established with Warwick University in the UK, to learn from their extensive experience in the use of renewable materials on racing vehicles.