Contact

Contact: Jennifer Judge Hensel

Asst. Director & Content Strategist

Michigan Engineering

Communications & Marketing

(734) 763-2852

3214 SI-North

When you think of racecars, you don’t typically envision fuel efficiency. But the University of Michigan is joining more than 20 other college teams to put a new spin on racing – combining the power of fast-paced cars with the innovations of hybrid technology.

mhybrid-032913-full

Inspired by the Formula Hybrid International Competition, the U-M College of Engineering Michigan Hybrid team (MHybrid) aims to “make hybrids fun” by competing in a multi-faceted competition of high-performance hybrid and electric vehicles. The team, started in 2011 by Michigan Engineering students, will be unveiling their new vehicle in April.

“One of the things preventing hybrids from taking off in the market is, honestly, they’re not very fun,” said MHybrid co-leader Kara Stoltze, an industrial and operations engineering student. “When people think of hybrids, they think of saving gasoline. They don’t think of fun, fast cars. But racecars are inherently fun to drive. So this competition helps break that vision.”

The MHybrid team calls their vehicle a “muscle hybrid.” With a four-wheel drive transmission system, its power is evenly split among the combustion and the electric, which uses a lithium ion battery. This combination allows for quick acceleration, which should be an advantage during the competition that tests speed, power and efficiency.

During the Formula Hybrid competition, the teams are tested in a series of scored events including design, acceleration and the most challenging – endurance. For the endurance event, the vehicle will begin with a full battery and only 19.2 megajoules of liquid fuel (equal to about a tenth of a gallon of diesel oil). Students are then asked to navigate a track about 13.5 miles long as fast as possible – however speed isn’t the only thing that counts. The overall efficiency of the engine is also put to the test.

“The endurance event creates the perfect opportunity to test the performance of a hybrid vehicle,” said MHybrid co-leader Sam Haberl, a U-M engineering student studying electrical and computer engineering. “No team is allowed to refuel during this event and each team must finish the race in under an hour. This leads to two extremes, either a team may drive at full performance and run out of fuel, or they may drive really slowly and conserve fuel but either lose to the other teams or not complete the course in the time frame.”

This isn’t the team’s first competition. The team came to life in 2011 in just a few short months, building their first vehicle and placing 10th overall. Although the team excelled in the design and marketing presentations, they didn’t pass technical inspection and weren’t able to compete in the physical events.

“It was a little disheartening, but overall we went into that competition looking at it as halftime for our first car.  We didn't expect to do as well as it was our first year, and we knew it was a learning experience for this year,” said Haberl.

This year, they are better prepared, more organized – and larger. Growing from just 30 members to almost 70 this year, the team is broken down into five groups: mechanical, electrical, controls, aerodynamics and business. The team, which designs and builds their vehicle in the Wilson Center, employs a parallel production method, allowing each group to work independently on their portion of the vehicle and preventing production delays.

“Last year we decided to do the Formula Hybrid Competition with no knowledge of the rules, SAE cars or anything else, we literally just jumped into it,” said Haberl. “This year we have experienced team members and we know what we want to build.”

The hands-on experience gained on teams like MHybrid is invaluable to the students, who believe they would never get this kind of opportunity in a classroom. Team members are exposed to not only their individual areas, but also to the project management, testing and business side of the process.

“Our product is not the vehicle – it’s the engineers who know how to make the vehicle,” said Haberl. “We’re creating people who can work across departments and technologies to create hybrid technology. All the advances in science lately have come from multidisciplinary efforts – chemists working with biologists and physicists. We need engineers who can work together to solve the problems of tomorrow.”

Members of MHybrid begin work

Close

Members of the Michigan Hybrid Racing Team (MHybrid) work in the Wilson Center on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on February 6, 2013. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

Freshmen work together

Close

Freshmen members of the Michigan Hybrid Racing Team (MHybrid) work together in the Wilson Center on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on February 5, 2013. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

Members of MHybrid work together

Close

Members of the Michigan Hybrid Racing Team (MHybrid) work in the Wilson Center on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on February 5, 2013. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHybrid uses the Wilson center to build

Close

Members of the Michigan Hybrid Racing Team (MHybrid) work in the Wilson Center on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on February 5, 2013. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHybrid will be unveiling their formula racecar on April 7 from 5 to 8pm in the Duderstadt Connector Gallery of Pierpont Commons on the U-M North Campus in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Article topics: MHybrid, Formula SAE, Student Teams


About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of nearly 70,000 spans the globe.

blog comments powered by Disqus