electric racecar
electric racecar

Five teams of engineering students studying the MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering at Cranfield University have been set the task of solving a characteristic problem with electric racing cars, as part of their course.

For electric racing to ever reach its full potential, the thermal issues related to battery performance need to be solved. Fundamentally, the operation of any battery generates heat due to losses associated with current flowing through the internal resistance of the battery. This heating effect can lead to thermal runaway where an increase in temperature, lowers the resistance and so the battery draws more current, which consequently increases the temperature further and this process continues until the battery is destroyed. 

This year’s Group Design Project will see the motorsport engineering students taking on the challenge of not only designing an electric racecar, but also managing the thermal behavior to achieve an optimum design which exhibits ultimate performance, while guaranteeing safe operation.

The five teams will compete against each other in true motorsport fashion to solve the problem. Each race team will conceptually design the thermal management system for an electric version of a Formula BMW, with the aim of achieving maximum performance and safe operation throughout a twenty minute race.

To achieve the best design, teams will have to carry out a vast array of experimental testing such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis) crash studies, heat exchanger and air duct testing, heat transfer coefficient validation of materials, optimisation, thermal performance analysis and aerodynamic testing. The final design concepts will be presented and virtually raced in front of some of motorsport’s leading figures on Industry Day.  

“This is a bold, innovative and I believe highly relevant project,” said Adrian Reynard, founder of Reynard Motorsport. “The efficient use of all types of energy will remain a focus of motorsport for the future and the electrical contribution will be at the heart of extracting optimum performance. So I think it will be a valid piece of learning for all involved and a valuable experience.”

The project is supported by companies and teams such as Williams Advanced Engineering, Virgin Formula-E Team, National College for Motorsport (NC4M), Cranfield Motorsport Simulation (CMS), Altair Hyperworks, AVL and ChassisSim. Various prizes will be awarded by the Motor Sport Association (MSA) and Racecar Engineering at Industry Day on 14 May 2015.  

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Notes for editors

Cranfield Formula Electric Series (CFES) 2014-2015

Group 5 – Volta Motorsport received the MSA prize for best presentation on the day as voted by the audience and LiON GP, group 3, was awarded the Racecar Engineering prize for best poster by Sam Collins, Deputy Editor. The Altair Optimum prize for the best technical report and presentation will be awarded at Graduation in 2016.

Group Design Project (pdf) Project Posters:

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Transport Systems at Cranfield

Cranfield has over 50 years’ experience in transport, including the aviation, automotive, motorsport, military and marine sectors.

We are the only university in Europe to own and run an airport and to have airline status.

Our education and award-winning research covers all modes of vehicles and transport across technology, engineering and management, including sustainable transport and intelligent mobility.

In an increasingly interconnected world, we specialise in understanding the whole environment in which transport operates: the vehicles, infrastructure, businesses and logistics, as well as the human aspects of operating, managing and using transport.

Our world-class facilities include high-performance wind tunnels, an off-road vehicle dynamics facility, a crash impact test centre (one of just three FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) approved test centres in the world) and our Accident Investigation Laboratory, which is dedicated to our work in aviation, marine and rail safety and the only accident investigation laboratory of its type outside the United States. We were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our world-leading work in aviation safety through research and training in air accident investigation in 2011.

Completed in 2017, our latest facility, the Multi-User Environment for Autonomous Vehicle Innovation, is a £19 million ‘smart’ roadway test environment for the development of intelligent and autonomous vehicles, making it a UK first. It includes the associated systems needed to integrate emerging technologies into our day-to-day lives.

A new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will also be built at Cranfield to spearhead the UK’s research into digital aviation technology, and a new state-of-the-art digital control tower, which replicates what can be seen through the windows of a traditional air traffic control tower via a live feed using HD cameras and sensors, is being installed at Cranfield Airport.