WESTVILLE | A few years ago, the Purdue University North Central Electric Vehicle Research Club members made a commitment to create a vehicle to compete in the 2013 Purdue evGrandPrix race — an adaptation of the storied Grand Prix race for electric vehicles.
The vehicle that began as an inspiration has been assembled piece by piece, with many components crafted by hand. It will make its debut run April 27 at the fourth running of the evGrandPrix. The evGrandPrix teams have been invited to participate in a May 12 exhibition at the Indianapolis Motor 500 Speedway. Then, on May 20, the club's founding members Roger Dodrill and Zack Littell will earn their bachelor's degrees in electrical and computer engineering technology.
The PNC team is confident its vehicle will be one of the most original in the race. They'll race a modified sprint kart, one of the fastest racing vehicles.
"There is nothing commercially produced in the kart," Dodrill said.
While some competitive go-karts are kit-made, the PNC vehicle was designed and crafted by hand. It wasn't always an easy process, but the team, which includes students Mavric Price, Matt Goldschmidt, Chris Mahoney and Chris Stamp, believes it is worth it.
"We wanted to design something innovative," said Littell, who is currently an intern with U.S. Steel and will become a full-time employee after graduation.
The students applied the knowledge they learned in class, such as 3-D modeling, CAD design, microcontrollers and circuit simulation software. They researched each part of the race, vehicle design, kart materials, tire innovations, electronics advances, motor technologies and the latest battery advancements.
Littell and Dodrill designed and fabricated an on-board computer similar to those in everyday automobiles.
The vehicle will be powered by lithium batteries. The batteries are expensive, costing about $5,000.
The PNC team worked hard to solicit monetary and material donations. Support has come from sources including NIPSCO, the St. Joseph Valley American Society of Mechanical Engineers Chapter, the Calumet Region Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Texas Instruments, AK Smith Welding, Wozniak Tool and Die, 3D Connexion and Motenergy.
"No one else in the race is using this high-end technology, let alone designing it themselves," said Chris Smith, PNC associate professor of ECET and team adviser.
"It will have a brain and that brain has to think extremely fast," Littell said.
For example, the brain will know to take the vehicle to its maximum, but not exceed it; the wheels have to work independently, but together and the global-positioning system will need to be precise.
The100-lap evGrand Prix race was created to "inspire students to commit their creative energies to develop future electric vehicle technologies that will secure sustainable and environmentally responsible transportation," according to the evGrand Prix website. Designing, making and racing the cars provides students a "reality-based environment."
The PNC vehicle can accelerate faster than most sports cars and is capable of going from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds. While the race speed limit is 50 mph, the kart can easily reach 125 mph and can be adapted to go faster.
The evGrand Prix cars must meet exacting specifications spelled out in a 116-page guide. The guide estimated that a "typical" car costs about $10,000 to make.
The EVGrand Prix winner earns $1,500 "and bragging rights" said Price, who is currently a NIPSCO intern.