August: Talented student engineers win award with hand-built electric race car | News and features

The atmosphere was electric at Castle Combe Race Track as a car built from scratch by Bristol students soared around the course and won an award from the organiser.

Over the past year around 30 students from the Bristol Racing society have designed and built an electric car to compete in inter-university races.

The first competition for the society, on September 11, saw them come 13Th out of 25 teams and won a Spirit of Greenpower Award from the organizers.

Although the team had spent months in the workshop, they hadn’t been able to road-test their car before the race.

Richard Hughes, Co-president of Bristol Racing, said: “It was a really great day. I was the one pushing the car onto the track and it was exciting, but also quite daunting.

“We knew the car should move but you always have in the back of your mind ‘what if it doesn’t?’ So to see it set off was an incredible experience.

“The team can’t wait to get back into the workshop: we want to come back next year with an even better car and test ourselves against the big teams.”

Bristol racing was formed just 12 months ago by Richard and fellow Bristol mechanical and electrical engineering student Owen Peckham.

A previous racing society had disbanded a few years before, meaning Richard, Owen and their team had to build the car from scratch.

Richard said: “Having a blank canvas is daunting but it can also be quite freeing.

“As a new society we’ve had to design our car on a budget. We don’t have any sponsors, the only money we’ve had is membership fees and a grant from the Faculty of Engineering – so it’s been a bit of a challenge!

The team’s car, driven by Matt Appleby, overtook several rivals and managed 10 laps in 45 minutes.

Michele Augousti, Interim CEO of race organizer Greenpower Education Trust, said their event was a “wonderful celebration of the hard work our participants have put in over the past year designing and building their own electric cars”.

Ian Bond, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: “Congratulations to the team for this amazing performance. It really encapsulates the commitment and ingenuity of Engineering students at Bristol and demonstrates the importance of learning by doing.

“As we transition to a net zero economy, it is critical that our next generation of engineers get these opportunities to design, build and test the technologies we will need to achieve our goals.”

Over the past year Bristol Racing has been split into four sub-teams, each fine-tuning a different part of the machine:

  • Electrics, including the batteries, motor, speed controller, lights and horn
  • Aerodynamics, including the shape and profile of the car
  • Mechanical power, including the transmission, brakes and steering mechanism
  • Chassis, ensuring the base of the car is robust and safe

The event is sponsored by Renishaw, an engineering firm based in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.

Most team members study engineering. Many of the various courses the University offers – mechanical, civil and design, for instance – consistently rank among the best engineering courses in the country.

Bristol Racing Co-president Owen Peckham said: “Projects like this allow students to apply the skills learned in their degree to real-world problems and build further passion in their work.

“We think it’s important because the opportunity should make our members more experienced engineers going forward.”

Over the next 12 months, Bristol Racing will build on this year’s progress with an even better car. Richard and Owen will also continue as co-presidents.

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