Kitchener-Waterloo

Hybrid race car team from University of Waterloo wins international competition

Sleepless nights and cans of Red Bull helped a team of engineers from the University of Waterloo win a competition to design a hybrid race car.
The University of Waterloo's winning hybrid single-seater race car. (University of Waterloo)

It took a year of work, sleepless nights, cans of Red Bull and over $60,000 for a team of 38 engineers from the University of Waterloo to win first place in an international competition to design a hybrid single-seater race car and set a new record in the process.

"The weeks before the competition, some of us while we're still studying for exams, we're putting 60-70 hours into it a week just to be able to do all the final touches," said Christopher Kohar, one of the Waterloo Formula Hybrid team members. 

Waterloo beat out teams from top engineering universities across North America, Turkey and India to take first place overall at the Formula Hybrid competition held from April 27 to 30. The team also set a record for endurance - 33 laps around the track.

The hybrid race car competition, founded and run by Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth is held every year at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It's supported by two different engineering societies, the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

"Our goal for this year was just to get a car that actually gets on to the track and that's reliable. One of the biggest challenges is to make it through inspection, because you're dealing with high voltage systems there's a lot of electrical safety that has to go into it," Kohar told host Craig Norris in an interview on The Morning Edition

The team totally redesigned the car's electrical system to make the battery more powerful, after they had problems with it at last year's competition. Because the team added another 20-pound battery, they had to lighten other components, said Kohar. 

The point isn't to reach a top speed but for the car to last the longest on the track during the endurance test, which Waterloo did this year and set the record of 33 laps.

"To be able to actually win it, it's really an amazing feeling and we're still all celebrating the victory back home," said Kohar. 

But the team won't rest on their laurels for long. They're already planning improvements for next year's entry.

"We're going to be increasing our battery pack, we're going to be doing in-hub motors, so it allows the car to have four-wheel drive," said Kohar.  

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