ADL-18e Formula SAE Australasia

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Michelle Wilson

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The AU Motorsport Club recently competed in the Formula SAE Australasia. It was the first time the club has entered with an electric car, and with goals in mind the club passed with flying colours. Below is the journey from the club, with great insight into the week.

We headed off to competition with a car which had done just two days of testing, a bit confident it could achieve our goal of scoring points in all the dynamics events at competition, provided we could pass the new and much more involved electrical scrutineering process. There were 15 electric cars entered into the event, and a total of 33 cars including petrol powered cars. The event saw Universities from Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan and Germany compete.

The main action started Wednesday night, with a crew pulling an all nighter to prepare the car for the Thursday scrutineering, but we headed to the track late in the morning with work still to do. By the early afternoon, we rolled out for our first attempt at electrical scrutineering, and left with only a few simple changes to make, which were all resolved that afternoon, meaning we were ready to arrive Friday morning and get through the first stage of electrical scrutineering.

Friday is always a hectic day at competition. We had the three statics to complete (business presentation, cost event, and engineering design), and add to that we still had to complete the five stages of scrutineering. We managed to get through the first electrical and mechanical inspections early in the morning, just before the car needed to roll over for cost event. We had a very new team involved in the cost event, and with the first year EV we were very unsure what our result would be, however, the team scored its best result in the event with a second place.

Following the cost report, we jumped straight back into the line for scrutineering, where our six drivers needed to prove they could shut the car down and jump out in under five seconds. All drivers passed easily, and we rolled down to weigh the car in, and then perform the tilt test. Both of these were passed without issues, with ADL-18e weighing in at 263kg. Straight after this, we lined up for the toughest stage of scrutineering, the functional demonstration at high voltage, the usual trap for first year electric cars. Remarkably, the team managed to get through this in our first attempt, a feat showing how thorough preparation had been.

Following this, the team lined up for the engineering design, an event we had spent little time preparing for, but confident we could score decent points given the quality of work in the car. We achieved 12th, but scoring solid points and right in the pack of midfield EVs. This finished up our Friday, and we left the track with just brake and rain test between ADL-18e and running on track.

On Saturday morning, we lined up straight away for brake test, and despite a few nervous moments trying to start the car, we ended up passing on our first attempt. Next up, we rolled out for what was going to be a nervous few minutes with the rain test. This test involved sitting the car under sprinklers and testing the car is not damaged by rain, in particular the high voltage electronics which are safety critical. It was a very anxious four minutes, but ALD-18e passed with no issues and we had just completed our first electrical scrutineering, so onto acceleration we rolled.

We anxiously sat in line for acceleration, knowing completing a single run was enough for us to be on track to achieve our goal. Our first run was nothing spectacular, and the car had a few glitches still, meaning it was not running near its full power. We pulled the car back into the pits and made a few minor changes. We ended up doing another two runs, setting a time of 5.7s and finishing 8th, last of the running EVs, however, with a clean run we had achieved what we wanted.

The next event for the day was skidpan - we rolled out feeling confident we could get a clean run in. We lined up for our first run and the car rolled out, but stopped on track before setting a run. This was a small bug in the new car, so we knew if we could reset the car we had a good chance of a clean run. We did this, and our driver did a perfect job, using his two runs, and setting a very respectable time giving us 7th in the event. After this, we rolled back to the pits and began preparation for Sunday. After the inspection of our custom electronics, we found some problems.

Upon inspection, we found a number of fixes needed to be made, and some serious work was required from the electronics team to get the car ready for Sunday. To their credit, the electronics group stayed up to the early hours of Sunday, and arrived at the track at 7am to test the fixes. When we plugged it all back in and turned it on, the parts which were fixed worked straight away, and consistently. Unfortunately, this just revealed more problems, most notably our high voltage systems appeared to trigger before they should. We also noticed a puff of white smoke emitted from the batteries. Less than an hour later, we had fixed the batteries, resolved the issue with the premature triggering of the high voltage system and were ready to head out to Autocross. We ended up setting two times, the first as a banker lap in damp conditions, and the second in dry conditions, with a time that scored us 8th place.

We then pulled into the pits ready for one last event, the endurance. We patiently waited our turn to run, watching heavy storms roll through quickly followed by hot summer sun. When the time, came we lined up and got set to hopefully get a clean lap in, and then see how far we could make it. ADL-18e rolled out and we nervously waited to see if it could make it around a lap. Thankfully it did, and by that time we had achieved the primary goal for the year, a huge achievement for everyone who was involved. Unfortunately, it only managed to complete three of the required 20 laps, but regardless the team were over the moon to have made it so far in the competition.

We have had a lot of support throughout our journey to get to a running electric vehicle, and we'd like to thank everyone who has been a part of it, especially AU Sport which has been a great support for the team, and allowed us to continue to run.

Business Presentation: 13th
Cost Event: 2nd
Engineering Design: 12th
Acceleration: 8th
Skidpan: 7th
Autocross: 8th
Endurance: 9th

Overall: 9th