BGSU students prepare for electric vehicle race

The Collegiate evGrandPrix team

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Bowling Green State University has a long history of building alternative energy vehicles. On Saturday, May 7, students from BGSU’s Motorsports Club and the College of Technology’s sustainability technology class will enter their all-electric powered racer in the Collegiate evGrandPrix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The multi-event weekend focuses on developing and showcasing green energy automotive technology.

Kenneth “KC” Heschel, a sophomore from Port Clinton majoring in middle childhood education, will pilot the racer. KC is the current two-time defending kart track champion at Lil’ Indy in Attica, Ohio, and has over 160 wins to his credit. Supporting KC at the race will be crew chief Shawn Thomas, a senior from Rudolph majoring in engineering technology; Joshua McGinnis, a senior from Fairfield majoring in mechanical design; Troy Weaver, a junior from Tiffin majoring in engineering technology; Austin Griffith, a senior from Bucyrus majoring in sports management, and John Grote, a senior from Bowling Green majoring in engineering technology. 

The team has equipped the racer with a state-of-the-art electric propulsion system and quick-change lithium ion batteries. To keep battery costs manageable, the event limits the total electrical energy to the equivalent of about one quart of gasoline.

“We plan to make one 20-second pit stop to change batteries during the 100-lap race,” said Thomas. “We expect to reach speeds of 45 miles per hour on the specially prepared one-third of a mile road course on the IMS grounds.”

Financial support for the BGSU team came from cash and in-kind donations from corporations, the Bowling Green Utility Green Initiative and the BGSU Green Fund. Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and AMP Ohio also offered the team support by demonstrating the potential of electric vehicles and promoting clean energy solutions. 

“The support of external organizations provides our students a chance to work with the latest equipment and materials,” said Anthony Palumbo, team adviser and an associate professor emeritus of technology. “It also demonstrates the benefit from local groups pooling resources.”

The evGrandPrix program is designed to inspire college students to pursue careers in electric vehicles and sustainable technologies by studying and applying science, technology, engineering or math. Multi-disciplinary student teams must fund, design and build energy-efficient electric racers and market the event by partnering with industry, government agencies and community outreach programs. The champion of the overall competition is the team that best blends kart design and community outreach with race placement and optimal efficiency during 100 laps of racing.

“Who wins an event is not as important as participating,” Palumbo said. “The real winners in this are the students who field the racers, present reports and present the outreach effort. Finishing first is icing on the cake and provides for bragging rights until the next event.”

“The evGrandPrix program fits right into our educational objectives,” explained Dr. Sudershan Jetley, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technologies. “The mission of the department is translated into educating students with real hands-on engineering technology experiences. Each student was responsible for different aspects of the vehicle development and the outreach program. This, together with lectures, provided the students with multiple experiences.”

The BGSU team will be competing against more than 30 college teams from across the country and two schools from the United Kingdom.

This is not the first time that the BGSU Motorsports Club has fielded an electric racer. From 1994-2003, the team was responsible for the success of the highly acclaimed Electric Falcon race car.

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(Posted May 04, 2011 )