CSU debuts electric race car at Old Town Car Show

Electrical engineering graduate Jason Blair adjusts the power system in the 2015 MERC Ram Racing Formula SAE car before it gets its outer shell. This is the first all-electric vehicle CSU has entered in the student design/build competition.

The first all-electric Formula SAE race car built by CSU’s MERC Ram Racing team will be on display at the Old Town Car Show May 30. Then it zooms off to the SAE International competition in Lincoln, Neb., June 17-20, to compete against other student-designed and -built vehicles.

The car was built as a senior engineering project by a nine-member team, according to team manager Adam Grabish, who graduated in May with a degree in mechanical engineering.

“The team is responsible for every aspect of the build, including raising money from sponsors to finance construction,” Grabish explained, adding that the engineers had fundraising help from College of Business students. “The project calls for us to set up a mythical company to produce a thousand cars for the weekend racer and work out financials and final costs. We’re judged on those cost factors as well as how well the car performs on the track.”

Other competition categories include design, presentation, acceleration, braking, autocross, endurance and fuel economy. Each member of the team drives the car in trials and the driver with the best performance in a specific event is entered into that event in competition.

Design work starts in the summer before the semester-long construction begins. Grabish estimated that from design to completion, including time devoted to the project by the undergraduate engineering club, the car took about 30,000 hours of work. That included a custom-designed battery power system, associated data collectors and cooling system created specifically for this vehicle.

The car is fairly sparse to reduce weight. It tips the scale at about 600 pounds fully equipped and is geared to achieve speeds of up to 102 mph, according to Jason Blair, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and manager of electrics for the team.

“We always reuse parts from previous years’ vehicles, but there are different rules about materials in the electric car division,” Blair said. “For example, we had to make sure the shell was made of an entirely non-conductive material, so we couldn’t use the carbon fiber body from last year.”

While Ram Racing has participated in the Formula SAE competitions since 1995, and the program has been around since 1979, this is the first time CSU has entered an all-electric vehicle. Alternative fuel events have been part of SAE since 2006.