Dartmouth Formula Racing is a student-run organization at the Thayer School of Engineering at the Dartmouth College that designs, builds, tests, and races a formula-style racecar in an international student competition. The program was founded during the 1995-1996 academic year and consists of a team of 10-30 dedicated students each year. DFR has raced and tested its cars in Michigan, California, New Hampshire, and even the famous Silverstone Formula 1 circuit in England. For the first seven years of the program’s operation, the team solely focused on competing in Formula SAE events with gasoline-powered cars and placed in the top 10 in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2007. In 2006, DFR finished 7th at Formula Student England.
In 2003, Thayer students began researching hybrid racecars, with the goal of integrating the exceptional torque and efficiency of an electric motor to the power of the gas engine. DFR brought their first Formula Hybrid racecar to the annual Michigan FSAE event, but the car was not allowed to compete due to the judges’ inability to use the conventional tests to determine the safety of the vehicle. The next year hybrid vehicles were formally disallowed from entering the FSAE competition. DFR and Thayer consequently created a new competition exclusively for hybrid and electric racecars, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and The Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. The first annual Formula Hybrid Competition was held in May of 2007 with 6 teams, and the competition has grown to 41 teams in 2011 and 59 teams in 2012.
Until recently, DFR built a new FSAE car as well as working on the Formula Hybrid entry, but in 2009 the team decided to consolidate its resources to create an entirely new hybrid racecar, which looked and handled like a typical lightweight FSAE car. This effort lead to a car that was 300 lbs. lighter than the 2008 entry. The 2010 Formula Hybrid entry, Penny, marked the first year DFR developed a parallel hybrid, a configuration in which both the internal combustion engine and the electric motor drive the rear wheels. In past years, DFR had only developed series hybrid vehicles, in which only electric motors powered the wheels, while the engine provided power to the motors. The parallel hybrid was a great success at the 2010 Formula Hybrid competition, finishing 2nd in unrestricted acceleration, 3rd in design, and 4th in autocross. At the 2011 competition DFR won the Chrsler Award for Best Hybrid System Engineering and finished 4th overall. At the 2012 competition DFR came in 5th place overall and won 3rd place for the Ford Efficiency award, and 3rd place for the GM Best-Engineered Hybrid Award.
It is an exhilarating time in the Formula Hybrid world, as teams are gaining knowledge and experience in implementing different concepts to improve performance of these vehicles. Over the past two years, DFR has pushed the envelope at the already ahead-of-the-curve Formula Hybrid competition, competing with its first-ever all-electric vehicle in 2013 and arriving to competition in 2014 with a purpose-built EV sporting a high-performance electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Next up in 2015/16: an all new, hybrid-electric vehicle... Stay tuned!
DFR consistently provides students with a professional environment while still experiencing the academic aspects of automotive engineering. As the push for more efficient vehicles gradually shifts the automotive industry away from traditional gas cars, the DFR team is on the forefront of automotive innovation, advancing the hybrid systems as well as diving into the bourgeoning field of lightweight, high-performing electric vehicles, which gives students the invaluable opportunity to design and engineer advanced new solutions for automotive technology.