Engineered for Speed – Part 1

by Michael Mullaney on April 4, 2011

Last week we introduced you to Photon, the all-electric vehicle built by the Rensselaer Solar Car Racing Team. Today we’d like you to make the acquaintance of Photon’s older, faster brother.

The Rensselaer Formula SAE student club unveiled their 2011 car this morning. Weighing in dry at 375 pounds, with a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3 seconds, the impressive car is quite a contender:


At the top of this post is a very cool time lapse video of the RPI FSAE team assembling #59 over the weekend, in preparation for this morning’s roll-out event.

Here’s how Formula SAE works:

It’s an intercollegiate design competition that requires a team of students to design, manufacture, and market a Formula-style race car. Each year, the car is evaluated in two categories: static and dynamic. In static events, the vehicle is judged on cost, manufacturability, and design. In dynamic events – the fun stuff – the vehicle is judged on acceleration, skid-pad, autocross, endurance, and fuel economy.

Rensselaer has competed in Formula SAE since 1994, when it placed a respectable 34th place. Since then, the team has grown substantially, and now ranks 10th overall in the United States and 31st overall in the world.  Next month, the 2011 team will race the above car at the national Formula SAE Competition, which takes place annually at Michigan International Speedway. They’ll also compete in June at FSAE West at the Auto Club Speedway in California.

I spoke this morning with Formula SAE team member Stephen O’Grady, a junior aero major. Stephen says they made many itierative improvements from the team’s previous car. Probably the largest change this to thie year’s car is the lack of of a rear box. They removed the rear box, which housed the differential and rear suspension, from the chassis. The team designed a new solution, where the differential and suspension is mounted underneath the back. The move shaved 3.35 lbs from the car’s weight.

Overall, the team says they spend upwards of 10,000 hours collectively designing, making, assembling, and testing the car.