Caltech Sustainable Vehicle Club: First Year Recap

Formed in the fall of 2014, the Caltech Racing Club is a group of dedicated students aiming to push the limits of our engineering skills while promoting the next generation of vehicles worldwide.

Developing our club with the idea in mind to research the next innovations in the automotive industry, our team is working hard to build both a fuel cell vehicle and an all battery powered Formula-style vehicle to analyze the practical applications of both systems. In order to create vehicles that will operate at peak performance, we are always looking to innovate and find new creative solutions that push the boundaries of technology.

This past year, we successfully converted a gas powered go kart into our fully electric, lithium-ion battery-powered vehicle. Our goal was to develop and build our power-train for the formula style vehicle in this first year. Based on research from our club members, we chose an independent, direct-drive AC induction motor system to power the rear wheels of the vehicle as shown below. We finished this build in early June. Our work culminated in an exciting event as we got to participate in the Gates-Thomas Reopening ceremony. Before the ceremony, we gave research presentations to the distinguished guests and demonstrated the vehicles performance by driving around a track set up around the olive walk. We are proud that we accomplished what we set out to do this year, but are even more excited to start working on the second phase of this project.

We are building a second vehicle to enter the SAE Formula Electric Competition held every year in Lincoln, Nebraska. Thus, starting this summer, we will design a racing vehicle from the ground up to include this power-train system. In addition, we will also develop our Fuel Cell Vehicle in parallel. With both these vehicles in production this summer, we have students performing research to improve the efficiency and performance of the vehicles and to investigate the costs, benefits and sustainability of both systems. Finally, all of these efforts will continue into the fall term as we start a new edition of a class to promote a systems level engineering process in preparation for the competition in summer 2016.

We greatly appreciate all of the contributions from our community. They have allowed us to bring our innovative ideas to reality!

Figure 1: First Generation EV
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