One of Yale’s student clubs, Bulldogs Racing, may be on track to create one of the fastest electric race cars in the nation.
Bulldogs Racing, an undergraduate club founded in 2008 as part of a mechanical engineering student’s senior project, is gearing up for late spring and summer races with a new electric car. The club, which has roughly 30 members, won the nation’s hybrid championship in 2013. Unlike the previous car, which ran on both electric and gasoline power, the 2016 car will be completely electric, and, according to club members, should be able to go from zero to 60 mph in just two and a half seconds. Team members interviewed said that though the team is more cohesive than ever and the car promises to be one of its fastest yet, the switch to fully electric brings a unique set of challenges which includes funding the automobile parts.
“We’re really excited about this season,” said the team’s business manager, Tyler Caldwell ’18. “We expect the car to be done in about February. From there, we’ll be testing what we believe will be the fastest car [of its kind] in the United States, if not the world.”
According to Caldwell, the budget for many of the club’s past cars has hovered around $30,000, and when the team ran the numbers for this year’s build, their initial projections were more than doubly expensive — more than $70,000. Caldwell said that they carefully reviewed the budget and were able to reduce it to just over $50,000.
He noted that the current exchange rate — one euro equals 1.09 U.S. dollars — has helped the group purchase car parts overseas. Nevertheless, the group still needs to raise about $12,000 more in funds by January, Caldwell noted. Strategies include putting advertisements for top sponsors on the car. The team also pitched to major engineering companies that their hands-on experience will create better future engineers who are more equipped to work at those same companies later.
According to Taha Ramazanoglu ’17, the club’s president, the largest funders, outside of Yale, are Turkcell and Alcoa who have cumulatively donated $15,000 to the team. He added that the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences gives the team about $14,000 per every funding cycle which runs 18 to 24 months. As of now, they are the only Yale department to fund the project, but the team will be applying for the Yale Dean’s Office discretionary fund very soon.
The group is still working on putting together their new car. Dante Archangeli ’17, project manager, said he works with the group’s chief engineer and president to turn the abstract ideas into a physical car.
“We assign [other team members] to groups, and those groups come back with a budget and say how long they think [each step] will take [to build the car],” he said.
Ramazanoglu explained that the car will go through in-shop bench testing to run the motor, which allows the team to identify problems before taking it out of the garage. The second stage occurs on West Campus, in the parking lot of the nursing school, Ramazanoglu said. Team members drive the car, hoping that nothing breaks, testing the car’s ability to deal with multiple miles, he added. Finally, the car goes to a real track. There, the team will focus on tuning and tweaking the car to increase its speed, he said.
Caldwell said that if the team can get the car on the track at the race, the group has a good shot. But only about 10 percent of cars that go to the competition will be able to compete, Caldwell said, due to the heavy regulations the cars must pass. Even minor issues, such as the height of the seat, can disqualify a car, he added.
All of the team member’s responses regarding their Bulldogs Racing experiences were enthusiastic.
“I think we’re really on the cutting edge. We design our own battery systems … We design all the circuitry. Everything about the car is designed by the engineering students [in the club],” Caldwell said. “Electric cars are still a relatively new field. As someone interested in economics and business, being able to run the finance side of a small team like this has really been an informative experience.”
The Bulldogs Racing Team will compete in its first race on May 2, 2016.