University students prepare electric car for debut in international competitions

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Students from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) are fine-tuning the last details of the prototype of an electric racing car that they built throughout this year to participate, in “absolute debut”, in three international competitions.

A few hours before the unveiling of the new prototype, FEUP’s Formula Student team is fine-tuning and preparing the last details on the engine and chassis of the red car.

University students prepare electric car for debut in international competitions

It took two years and a lot of work to finish the prototype of the electric racing car that now occupies part of the workshop where about 40 students, aged 21 and 22, work.

The idea to develop the prototype came from Afonso Costa, 23, and three other colleagues, Enzo Xavier, Ricardo Seca, and Renato Ferreira.

The project gained dimension after the team, then numbering 20, won the ‘Concept Class’ award at Formula Student UK 2022, held at Silverstone in the UK. This achievement led them to take the idea off paper.

“Bringing a project that is on paper to reality is completely different,” said to Lusa Afonso Costa, team leader, noting that to get here several challenges had to be overcome.

“The car that is here is the culmination of many things that went right, not only our technical prowess, but also our ability to convince and bring in sponsors, the faculty, and the students themselves,” he said.

If some components were bought, but handpicked by the young people, the “big components of the car” were built in the workshop, such as the chassis and the accumulator, as well as many other elements of the car.

At around 270 kilograms (kg), the car can reach a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour, but given the restrictions of the competitions it can only reach 60, during which it will have a range of 45 minutes.

Pela frente, os jovens e o protótipo têm três competições internacionais: a Formula Student UK, em Silverstone (Inglaterra), a 1.ª edição da Formula Student Portugal, em Castelo Branco, e a Formula Student Germany, na Alemanha, “a mais importante competição da área”.

E, caberá a Anabela Teles, de 22 anos, a missão de pilotar o protótipo nas provas internacionais.

“It’s going to be a pressure to drive the car in competitions because it’s a time when you’re going to evaluate whether the work we’ve done in the last two years in terms of dynamic events has paid off or not, but we’re getting ready,” he said.

The young woman joined the team in September 2022, when they were still taking “the first steps”, not only because of her love for motorsports, but also because of the “enriching experience” she could be a part of.

“It was an excellent choice, we really learned here a lot more than, not only ‘design’, but ‘design’ prepared for manufacturing and how to turn everything we see on paper and in class into a real context and a functional car,” he mentioned.

After the competitions, the team’s goal is to continue the project, optimizing the electric car, but also inserting new technologies such as autonomous driving, a challenge that is “on the horizon.

For professor Luís Galamba Carvalho, from FEUP’s Mechanical Engineering Department, the materialization of this project proves how students can achieve “incredible feats” if they are supported and encouraged.

As an advisor to the team, the professor will try to make these activities, which “take up a lot of time and dedication of young people,” become “patent within the college and university,” duly made compatible with the study cycles.

“These are the high-competition athletes of engineering,” highlighted Luís Galamba Carvalho, adding that this type of activity has, however, to “prove its worth,” something he believes the students will be able to do.

The prototype will be presented today, starting at 5pm, at FEUP, in an event where around 300 people are expected.

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