Estonia's first electric formula racecar: VOL2
FS Team Tallinn's season 2013/2014
The year 2014 has yet again been a very significant year in the history of FS Team Tallinn. Just last year we (being pessurised by our supporters) had decided to make an electric formula racecar and already the same season we got it to the competition in Hungary. As you may remember, the competition was not very successful. We failed to finish the endurance that is the most difficult and considerable of the dynamic events. The problem was in the battery packs: the cells were overheated and swelled up. This season, just a year later, we are overall winners. But we'll get to that in more detail.
It all started in the autumn 2013. We had just got back from the competition in Hungary. We had FEST13. A car that was clearly not ready: the frame and body panels had not been painted, all modifications to the mechanics seemed to have been made by axe... Our usual quality and finishing touches were not to be seen anywhere. The battery cells were swelled up, leaking and smelled awfully. Nope, not a pleasant sight but each and every one of us could clearly envision this car on track. Beast! Not more to say. Weighs more than enough. At its alost 260 kg of weight FEST13 beats its older brother FEST08 that was FS Team Tallinn's first ever. But the way it runs... Damn! Inspired by that we made a promise in Hungary: 'We are here this year, to win the next year!' Optimistic, isn't it!
Then came new members, brought a huge amount of motivation and the work continued. FEST13 was disassembled. The frame was ripped empty and stored away. The rules state that each new car has to be significantly different from the past. This meant designing and producing a new frame, improving and/or changing many components that malfunctioned. The electronics' team set to work. Rows of code, PCBs, LEDs and all other stuff - the amount of the different components that these men designed/wrote/assembled/selected was immense.
After almost a half a year of work the formula racecar was finally on its wheels on 2nd March at 00:25. The frame was complete and most of the suspension components were assembled. This big event was in about a month followed by another. 27th April FEST14 was finally ready to drive. Those first new meters in the parking lot of Tallinn UAS in the night hours were amazing. Thank God electric formula makes zero noise - otherwise we would have had another disagreement with our neighbours). And that meant that another important task in our checklist was complete. Now we had to prepare for the testing period.
The testing period was not smooth. Five of our team members were haunted by call of duty from the Estonian army. One of them got away for health reasons but all in all it meant that the work had to be done but the competitions were off-limits. The situation was intense for the team as well beacause those people were very important to us and we tried our best to get extension for them. The pressure and sleepless nights broke a number of us and some very expensive mistakes were made. For example, the voltage limit of the motor controller was put to test. Now we know that 600 volts is obviously too much for the controller if you ever want to use it again :) Luckily our friends in Latvia rushed to help. The men are developing an electric racecar and using the same motors and controllers as us. They just happened to have one extra...
The charger also decided to give up at one point. This meant that, while charging, the batteries were in need of some babysitting. Luckily we had some specialists to take care of the matter. The tests were progressing but significantly shorter than those of a gasoline formula - just as long as there was still spark. Days before the competitions were filled with finding errors in electronics and working on the mechanics. The first competition was at home - in Estonia. Our honorary duty was to hold the Baltic Open and we decided to have it in Põltsamaa. Nice little town in Estonia, a go-karting track right outside the town.
Baltic Open was very interesting. There were a bit under 20 cars competing but the joy of driving was significantly bigger. In addition to the regular dynamic events we also had acceleration testing drivers reaction speed and slalom (like our northern neighbours had last year). Estonia had a total of FOUR formulas in the game. We won the special acceleration and the second sprint with track assembled by participating teams. Both trophies were brought home by FEST14. The endurance, however, ended for us with a DNF because rainwater got to some places where it shouldn't have and the car stopped. Luckily the alumni members saved the day by winning Baltic Open! Next year, though, we have decided to pass on the honour of organising the competition. Pulling off an event like that is very demanding and, therefore, we are more than happy to go to Sweden of Denmark the next year.
After Baltic Open and before the European competition tour we had just enough time for another great event. For the first time in the history of FS Team Tallinn we have a proper team car that we named Ivar. Ivar was lent to us by the nice people of Viking Motors. They opened their doors to us and our sponsors and held a very nice unveiling event for FEST14. There were loads of TV cameras and we were in the evening news in almost every Estonian TV channel. We were delighted and enormously motivated for the competitions.
First destination - Austria. Chilli weather, mud and awfully much German. The competition was tough. Very tough. The strict German demands and obeying rules lacking, however, the German determination and clarity. One says one thing, anohter opposes that opinion. Anyway, the first day began with scrutineering. And continued with that in the evening. And the next day. And the next evening. Everything was very closely inspected. The biggest probleem was TSAL or Tractive System Active Light that indicates when the tractive system is 'turned on'. It was not visible from all different angles that the rules state. Inspired by Stuttgart's car, we decided to solve the probleem with see-through plexiglass wing endplates but the officials were not impressed. In the end we still had to lower our rear wing.
After passing the scrut, all the rest went well. The statics and dynamics got done and the biggest sürpriise came at the award ceremony. We were awarded 2nd for efficiency! We had decided to play it safe in the endurance and turn down the power, so we only used some little part of our battery capacity. We were also awarded 3rd in skid pad.
Then followed the Hungarian competition. The weather was incredibly cold in terms of usual Hungarian weather but 'Oh-Yeah-Man' was there at his very best! The scrut worked out better and we were allowed on track with our 'invisible' wing endplates. That meant we had loads more aerodynamics than in Austria. The statics and dynamics were all in all fine but the endurance played a trick on us. In the beginning it seemed promising. According to the data collected in Austria we were able to turn the power up and the car was clearly flying on track - we had the fastest electric car on track! The driver change was smooth and the car set off to track. Having passed a couple of laps, we were taken to side. DNF. The TSAL was not functioning. Since it is important safety feature, we were not allowed to continue. That left a bit bitter taste but we had no time to weep - we had another competitioin to attend to.
Final destination - Italy. At last warmth, sun and lots of Italian talking with hands. This was it. Our last chance to prove the potential of our electric car. Everything went well from the very beginning: statics results were exemplary, design and business presentations took us to the finals. Even the dynamic events were great - we were the fastest electric vehicle in autocross. The award ceremony brought, yet again, a big surprise. We were awarded with a special award for safety or, to be more precise, for driver-protective design. The trophy was a plastic replica of a power steering (on the right in the award picture). But the most important accomplishment was the overall victory in electric class! Yes, we are champions of an official Formula SAE competition in Italy.
To sum it up, we can say that this season has been a huge success. Our first electric formula racecar brought us overall victory on our second electric season. Let me take this opportunity to praise our wonderful team members who made all of this possible! Let's hope that the starting season will bring us new and EVEN BETTER team members!