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McGill University goes to the first SAE Formula Hybrid competition

We recently brought you news about the newest student design competition from the Society of Automotive Engineers' Formula Hybrid along with the story of McGill University's electric and hybrid snowmobiles. Last week McGill and seven other schools converged on New Hampshire International Raceway in Loudon NH for the inaugural event. Dartmouth entered two cars but only one managed to compete.

The McGill University team from Montreal took advantage of the all the effort they had put into their hybrid snowmobile and transplanted their already-developed internal combustion range extender into the modified 2005 Formula SAE chassis they were using. The finished assembly of the car and had a quick shakedown run just hours before packing everything into a trailer and heading to New Hampshire.

Find out all about the competition and who won after the jump

[Source: Jeff Turner]

The MRT7 (McGill Racing Team) car was originally propelled by a turbocharged Yamaha motorcycle engine, but the team spent part of last year reworking the steel tube chassis to accommodate something a bit more cutting edge. The team decided to use a pair of electric motors driving each of the rear wheels independently. Each motor is connected to it corresponding wheel via a CVT and a chain and sprocket reduction gear.

The team has some ideas that they want to pursue for the future with the independent drive setup but for now the setup provides some traction control functionality by directing power to the wheel that has the most grip.

During their first phase of development last year, they worked with lead acid batteries, but this year they switched to the same lithium ion battery packs from the all-electric snowmobile. The two packs of ten cells each are mounted on either side of the cockpit for optimum weight distribution. The 72V packs drive the motors while they get charged by the same range extender used in the hybrid sled, a 7hp Subaru-Robin single cylinder engine matched up with a PMG 132 motor acting as a generator. The combination provides 700 Watt-hours of juice per liter of gas.

Jeff Turner of the McGill team estimates they used about 1.5L of gas during the three day event which combined with a fully charged battery pack meant they had four kWh of power available. Due to the lack of test time they ran with conservative current limits at first to maintain reliability, but gradually increased it during the acceleration runs. That reliability allowed the team to perform consistently in the autocross and also be the only car to run the entire distance in the sixteen mile endurance race.

The end result is that McGill ended up finishing first overall, followed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Yale in third. Dartmouth came in first in the design competition. Full results are available at the Formula Hybrid site. Hopefully, this event will continue to grow the way Formula SAE has inspire some new ideas among the students.

In the meantime the McGill hybrid is losing its batteries and one motor back to the electric snowmobile which is soon heading off to Greenland with the National Science Foundation. The team will be trying to pull together enough parts this summer to start working on improvements to the track car for 2008. I'm sure if anyone in the ABG audience has some extra components the team would be more than willing to put another sticker on the car in your honor.

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