Christian Laumann, Lukas Wächter and their teammates know one thing about competition: It never stops.
One year ago, as the electric cars of the Formula Student Germany were cooling down in the pits after the competition and the victors were accepting their awards on the stage in the big tent, the Lions Racing Team began planning for the next season. “We came up with our first ideas for improving the drive system right after the competition ended,” Laumann said. What else did his team take with them when they headed home from the Hockenheimring racetrack? “An extra shot of motivation for this year’s competition,” he said.
The Lions Racing Team, a group of 55 young women and men, is a key member of the Formula Student Germany international design competition. The team members study mechanical engineering, electromobility, computer science or mechatronics at the Technical University of Braunschweig in northern Germany. When they are not attending lectures, taking part in seminars or studying in the library, they use every spare minute in their schedules to fine-tune their new electrically powered race car at the Technikum of the Lower Saxony Research Center on Motor Vehicle Technology – the LR17.
Just how much time do they put into building the car? “So much that I don’t even want to think about it,” Lukas Wächter said with a laugh. The Lions Racing Team operates like a small business. Every member has an important job to do. Laumann, for instance, is the number cruncher who handles the finances. Wächter is the technical director and makes sure that the red and white LR17 has all the power it needs.
The race car will tip the scales at 240 kilograms when it is finished, and be able to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just three seconds.
If you visit their garage and ask about the list of challenges they face in building a zero-emissions electric race car, they talk about the four e-motor concept they use. They also have to wrestle with the carbon fiber monocoque and refine the chassis and the aerodynamics. “The challenge is everything – the complete package,” Wächter says. The race car will tip the scales at 240 kilograms when it is finished, and be able to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in just three seconds.
One question in particular weighs on the minds of the Braunschweig team: the design of the electric drivetrain. As part of this work, the team will have to ensure that the drivetrain's components communicate well with each other so that they can function well together. “It’s no different at Volkswagen,” Dr. Christian Felsch said. “Software engineering plays a big role in our electric vehicles’ drive systems, too.”
Felsch is an assistant to Friedrich Eichler, the Head of Assembly Engineering of the Volkswagen brand, and the patron of the Lions Racing Team. Volkswagen supports a number of university teams that are involved in the Formula Student Germany – with funding and expertise. “We share our experience in assembly engineering and offer support that helps the teams help themselves,” Felsch said in describing his role.
Formula Student Germany differs from other types of competition in one big way: what matters is the complete package. The competition comprises a number of disciplines, of which the most important in the electric competitive class is endurance. During this event, a vehicle's drive system has to prove its reliability across a long stretch. During the FSG16, the Lions Racing Team experienced battery problems and the vehicle spent the competition in the pit – a setback that gave them an extra shot of motivation for this year's Formula Student Germany, which will be held from August 8 - 13.
“Their passion for automotive technology is really contagious.”
“We learned a lot from last year's experience,” Lukas Wächter said. He pointed to a newly developed system test that the Lions Racing Team uses to pre-test the interplay of the software and hardware outside the vehicle. Hundreds of virtual driving tests have provided the students with some important information for the competition.
Felsch has had long discussions with the team about the system test and its advantages for motors, inverters, batteries and the like. The Lions Racing Team is learning from its team patron – and Volkswagen may be learning from the team. “Their passion for automotive technology is really contagious,” Felsch said. “In the future, they may become part of the team that will carry out Volkswagen's own electricity offensive.”
There is just one other question to ask: What does the Lions Racing Team, which will unveil its LR17 on May 4, think of the sound of e-motors? The fact that race cars purr instead of growling? That is not a problem at all, Wächter said with a laugh – just like the vehicle's range. “The battery can be set precisely for the necessary power and the required energy load. Electric motors are very well suited for auto racing.”
Volkswagen backs five university teams
The Formula Student Germany, which will be held from August 8 - 13 at Hockenheim, has three competitive classes: The Formula Student Electric itself, involving 35 teams, the Formula Student Combustion (for vehicles with internal combustion engines) and, for the first time, the Formula Student Driverless (for self-driving vehicles).
The University Marketing Unit of the Volkswagen brand supports five university teams involved in the electric vehicle competition: the Lions Racing Team (Technical University of Braunschweig), Bremergy Racing (University of Bremen), Formula Student Team Delft (Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands), Ecurie Aix (RWTH Aachen University) and HorsePower (University of Hannover). The Audi, Porsche, MAN and Scania brands also support the Formula Student competitions.
As in previous years, the University Marketing members will be at the competition to support the teams – and to show the students the excellent career opportunities that Volkswagen can offer them. In Hockenheim, graduates will have an opportunity to talk to experts from research and development, production and other business areas about their jobs and see the latest models from the Volkswagen world.