The University of Bath’s student electric racing car team, TBRe, arrived in China as not only the top UK electric team and sole UK representatives, but also the first time a UK team has competed at this event.
The team of undergraduate student engineers from the University of Bath’s Faculty of Engineering & Design arrived a couple of days before the car was delivered, having been in transit for near two months at sea. The car experienced what was perceived as minor damage during transit which the team quickly addressed ahead of the pre-race technical inspections.
Formula Student Electric China 2018 was a large event, significantly larger than the equivalent electrical entry at Formula Student UK with a total of 53 vehicles competing in the electric class and a further 12 in the autonomous class, TBRe being car number 53. TBRe was not only the sole UK representative but also the only team for outside Asia with the vast majority of competitors coming from China.
The FSEC scrutineering and organization proved to be challenging for the international teams to adjust to, with the numbering of the cars leading to long delays before TBRe started scrutineering, particularly the vital and time-consuming accumulator and electrical checks. This was both frustrating for the team and would prove to be a significant hurdle during the competition.
As the competition progressed the team performed strongly at the static events namely achieving 2nd place in the business presentation event and winning a place in the design final, ultimately placing 8th in the design event. The car was now finally progressing through the technical scrutineering process.
However, it was during the afternoon where disaster hit during scrutineering when the team failed one of the final tests.
The problem was identified to be within the accumulator (high voltage battery pack) which had seemingly not crossed the ocean unscathed. Vibration of the battery inside the shipping container had caused significant wear to the electrical insulation on the printed circuit boards which facilitate safe monitoring of the battery pack’s individual lithium-ion cells. The damage inflicted in transit presented a significant safety risk and it was therefore deemed too risky to run the car as a result. After what was a very long Wednesday, all seemed over from a racing perspective because without passing scrutineering there would be no opportunity to compete in the dynamic events.
However, the following day the determination of the Bath students came to the fore and determined not to go down without a fight, the team pulled together to disassemble the battery, design new printed circuit boards and have those designs sent off to be manufactured within 12 hours by a PCB manufacturer four hours away from Zhuhai in Shenzhen.
Desperate to compete on the final day, some of the team travelled to Shenzhen at in the early hours to collect the circuit board and rush back Zhuhai. The team worked furiously to get the car ready for scrutineering which closed at 6pm but it was nearing the end of the day when the team received the crushing blow that they would not make it in time to complete scrutineering and therefore not be able to race the following day.
Despite this, the team continued to work on the car to finish the rebuild and this dedication was recognised and repaid by the judges who allowed the team to race on Saturday, albeit not for points. In what was a bittersweet moment for the team, the car performed extremely well on the endurance circuit, four seconds faster than any of the previous cars on the circuit.
All in all, TBRe ranked the top overseas team in FSEC and placed an impressive 21st overall out of 53 entrants, despite not competing in any dynamic events. The team came 2nd place in the Business Event, 8th in the Design Event and ranked 6th place overall in the static events alone.
TBRe18 Team Manager, Elizabeth Maclennan, said:
Although the team didn’t achieve our anticipated score at Formula Student Electric China, no one could argue that we didn’t achieve our utmost in terms of overcoming technical challenges, persevering in the face of adversity and demonstrating integrity by prioritising safety over racing. The team showed incredible strength of character and of that we should be very proud. The trip was hugely enjoyable, and despite the disappointments everyone had an amazing time in China.
TBRe Academic advisor, Professor Peter Wilson commented:
This was a demanding, tough, long distance event, challenging the individuals and the team to its limits, however we are very proud to say that the team stuck together, never quit and maintained its sense of humour throughout. They were a credit to the University of Bath, British Engineering, and to themselves.
We are incredibly proud of their resilience, resourcefulness, skill, talent, work ethic, and sheer engineering ability throughout. This was an experience and team that we will never forget.
This is only TBRe’s third year since forming and with its early success it evidences of the strength of the University’s engineering students and degree programmes. As part of their degrees, students have the opportunity to represent TBRe at Formula Student and base their final year project or dissertation on the particular aspect they have been working on as part of their role in TBRe.
TBRe19 is already underway and the team are looking forward to building upon the achievements of this year’s team with Formula Student UK at Silverstone next July firmly in their sights.
To keep up to date with the progress of TBRe19, visit: