PU’s Princeton Racing Electric Inspired by Formula One Racing Cars and Present Formula One Engineering

This year’s competition was held the first week of May and was hosted by Dartmouth in Hanover, NH. It is an international race where universities from the U.S., India, and Canada participate. Companies such as Boeing and GM sponsor school teams.

By Erica Cardenas

Photography by Ray Lego 

This past May concluded Princeton Racing Electric’s (PRE) 2016-2017 season. PRE started four years ago and is an extracurricular activity for PU students. Serious PU students dedicate a dozen hours per week to work on the PRE car and mechanics. PRE is funded by both independent sponsors and Princeton University; however, the team is on a budget and has to “design within their limits.”

According to the website, pre.princeton.edu, Princeton Racing Electric is a student organization dedicated to advancing and developing sustainable energy drive systems and efficient, high-performance vehicle design. This is done by designing, building, and racing a high-performance electric vehicle that annually competes in the International Formula Hybrid competition, organized by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and endorsed by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

PRE Project Managers Jasper Gebhardt (PU sophomore in engineering) and Angel Fan (PU junior in astrophysics). This is Gebhardt’s second year on the team. He started in his freshman year, which was the first year that the team competed. For the upcoming 2017-2018 year, Gebhardt and Fan will be the president and vice president, respectively.

PRE Treasurer and Project Manager Jasper Gebhardt explained that there are three aspects to the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: endurance, autocross, and acceleration. The race includes two big inspections, and each can take over eight hours. It’s also very common for teams not to pass. Last year, almost 30 teams entered the inspections and only about three teams got to compete. “We are going to make some major changes and hopefully, we will win the competition next year,” says Gebhardt.

2016 was the final of three years of working on the same race car. The 2016-2017 school year introduced a new model, and the team is making changes to this current model for next year. Tarik Dzanic, president of PRE, said some of the changes and improvements include, “changes to the organizational structure of the team to make sure that project management and fundraising were priorities. We now have our entire design and build schedules planned out and submit our forms early to get bonus points for the competition. I increased member retention by hosting seminars with our staff advisor to teach the new members about Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) design as well as allowing the new members to start working on the car immediately. In the future, I plan on pushing more members into the design aspect of the car because currently much of the design is done by only a few members.”

Dzanic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and moved to the United States at age 6. He’s also an aspiring aerodynamicist for a Formula One team and looking forward to being part of a Formula SAE team in graduate school.

Other students use PRE as an extracurricular activity at PU to receive independent work credit. PU junior Coleman Merchant received independent work credit by focusing his research on the powertrain high-voltage battery system and writing a 20-page report describing the accumulator box. He and another PRE team member will be interning at Tesla Motors in California this summer. Other PRE members will be working at NASA, General Motors, and even their own companies.

The week of the race, all cars must pass two rigorous mechanical and electrical inspections, which are extremely challenging. Out of the 19 collegiate teams, PRE was one of eight approved to compete. Overall scoring consists of race performance, engineering, and aesthetics of the car and professionalism and business management of the team.

There are two divisions of the Formula Hybrid competition: hybrid and electric. PRE placed second in the electric division at this past May’s competition at Dartmouth.