Get Regular Updates!
Search

Tech

image|

ECU Racing

How to build an electric racecar

How to build an electric racecar

You spent your lockdown baking sourdough. ECU Racing spent theirs designing an electric racing car.

How to build an electric racecar

Designing an electric racing car is a very different challenge to designing, say, an electric postie bike. But with student racing events cancelled for the year, the ECU motorsport team found themselves with plenty of time to get started.

“We’re concerned a lot more about short term performance than maximum efficiency,” says technical director Adam Honeycombe.

“Our job is to get one guy around a track as quick as possible.”

Electric motors and batteries are more-or-less available off the shelf. The hard part of building a racing car is making everything work together – and, obviously, making it fast. That ends up being a pretty tricky engineering problem.

A render of the current design, with its aerodynamic coverings on … . Credit: ECU Racing View Larger
Image |

ECU Racing

A render of the current design, with its aerodynamic coverings on …
… and with them deleted, showing just the electric powertrain. . Credit: ECU Racing View Larger
Image |

ECU Racing

… and with them deleted, showing just the electric powertrain.

“You’ve got to check everything against everything. All the systems have to be integrated,” says Tom Mayes, who’s been designing the car’s electrical system.

That means a small change – like slightly heavier suspension, for example, has knock-on effects through the whole car.

“If you’ve got heavier suspension, your car weighs more, so you need a more powerful motor. Then you need more batteries. You might actually need to jump up to a different voltage like range for your battery pack. So it ends up a different shape, so your car ends up a different shape, which changes the aerodynamics, and so on.”

TOrque about a challenge …

All this design work has to be finished before anything starts being built. Where an internal combustion car, the team says, can be built and then fine-tuned, an electric vehicle has to work together from the start.

View Larger
Image|Rockwell McGellin
Cars from previous years are an important testbed for non-electric parts, like the team’s famously lightweight suspension systems.

“There’s nothing to tune. It’s just about throwing more electrons at the copper so it makes more power,” says Tom.

Working with a battery also makes the design harder to test once it’s complete. The team might spend all day testing an internal combustion car, refuelling between tests. An electric car gets one run day, and then needs to be recharged overnight.

Cells like victory

The team is currently working on their battery, custom assembled from the same sized 18mm x 65mm lithium cells you’d find in an old-school laptop – or the underside of a Tesla.

A render of the battery pack, with the packaging and circuitry required to make it work (and make it safe.) . Credit: ECU Racing View Larger
Image |

ECU Racing

A render of the battery pack, with the packaging and circuitry required to make it work (and make it safe.)
The battery itself is 756 individual cells, connected together to provide exactly the right current and voltage for the motor. . Credit: ECU Racing View Larger
Image |

ECU Racing

The battery itself is 756 individual cells, connected together to provide exactly the right current and voltage for the motor.

“We’ve got 756 cells, which sounds like a lot, but it’s not really that much,” says Tom.

(For comparison, a Tesla has over 7000.)

“The motor that we’re using in this car is smaller than one of the wheels by quite a long way. And it puts out more power than our old internal combustion engine. But the whole system is heavier and bigger because of the batteries,” says Tom.

“The whole engine from the last car is as big as the battery in this one,” adds Adam.

While the front of the car looks pretty much the same, these changes have meant that everything behind the seat will look completely different – so much so that the first thing they’re checking is whether everything will actually fit.

View Larger
Image|Rockwell McGellin
Technical Director Adam Honeycombe checks the clearances on the first prototype to make sure everything will fit.

It’ll be completely different to race as well.

“Your right foot has a connection to the rear wheel at the speed of electrons,” says Adam. “It’s not quite the speed of light, but it’s pretty damn quick.”

“That’s going to be really cool to feel.”

Particle Puns

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?