Dartmouth Welcomes 16 Teams to its 2nd-annual Formula Hybrid International Competition

April 29, 2008

CONTACT: Catharine Lamm
603/646-3943

Founded and run by Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, the 2nd annual Formula Hybrid International Competition will take place on May 5–7 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. The competition features high-performance hybrid race cars built by teams of undergraduate and graduate engineering students.

This year 16 teams will compete including Yale, Drexel, Embry-Riddle, and McGill University from Canada. Four of the teams, including Russia and Taiwan, have entered just the Presentation Event and plan to bring their cars next year.

Dartmouth Formula Racing - 2008 Hybrid Team
Dartmouth Formula Racing - 2008 Hybrid Team

Thayer School modeled its event after the Formula SAE® competition, in which Dartmouth students have competed for over 10 years. (This year, the Dartmouth Formula Racing team will continue fine-tuning the design of its 85% biofuel-powered turbo-charged engine.)

The main difference in the Formula Hybrid competition is that teams need to consider the additional factor of fuel efficiency in the design and construction of their car.

"In the Formula SAE® competition students can use as much gas as they want," Doug Fraser, Research Engineer and Director of the Formula Hybrid Project explained. "In the Formula Hybrid competition, students need to consider fuel usage. If the students have gas left over at the end of the competition then they've wasted it. Ideally, they want to run out of gas right as they cross the finish line."

Like Formula SAE®, students must also consider the design, acceleration, handling, and endurance of their vehicle and abide by a long list of rules.

"The rules are always a work-in-progress," said Fraser, "because students keep asking new and different questions that lead to new rules and eventually to new technology."

Apart from the engineering component, teamwork plays a huge role within and amongst the teams.

"It's amazing," said Wynne Washburn, the project's Deputy Director, "in the garages you can hear the teams communicating among themselves—Yale asking Embry Riddle questions, Dartmouth asking Illinois questions. The students are really open to sharing technology, and that's what makes technology better."

Dartmouth Formula Racing - 2008 Hybrid Car
Dartmouth Formula Racing - 2008 Hybrid Car

Washburn added, "One of the biggest excitements of the program is bringing together electrical and mechanical engineers. It's great to see two groups of people who study fundamentally different fields work together towards a common goal. The cross-disciplinary learning is invaluable."

But the purpose of the Formula Hybrid event goes beyond bringing engineers together and winning competitions. "We encourage teams to go further and really push the envelope of hybrid car technology," said Fraser.

The results should be impressive.

"The Dartmouth car is amazing to watch," said John Collier, Thayer School's Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation and Dartmouth hybrid team advisor. "The acceleration is incredible, and it's quiet!"

"Last year was the very first year of the competition," added Charlie Sullivan, Associate Professor of Engineering and another faculty advisor to the Dartmouth team. "Everybody was just starting to get things to work. I think this year we're going to see a lot more sophisticated design and creativity."

Registration begins the morning of May 5th. An educational program will run simultaneously with the goal of inspiring middle and high school students to take an interest in hybrid and other alternative technologies.

The acceleration and autocross events (which Washburn believed would be the most exciting events to watch) are scheduled for Tuesday May 6th. The endurance event will take place on Wednesday before the Awards Ceremony.

See the competition website for more schedule information.

Competition sponsors include the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Plug In America, Toyota, General Motors, and Chrysler.