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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Students from Owens Community College Automotive Program, the Bowling Green State University Motorsports Club and College of Technology Sustainability Technology class recently put the finishing touches on their all-electric powered EV (electric vehicle) karts last week.

Two teams of students competed in the Collegiate evGrandPrix held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday, May 12. The second annual event was held on opening day as part of motor speedway’s month-long celebration of the 101th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. The track was a specially prepared one-third mile road course on the speedway grounds.

evgrandprix2

The BGSU kart finished the 100 lap event in
2nd
place, with the Owens Kart finishing 6th.
Out
standing results for new teams.

The evGrandPrix championship consists of four separate events that include a wheel-to-wheel race, efficiency competition, technical competition and outreach competition. To compete in the evGrandPrix, multi-disciplinary student teams must fund, design and build energy-efficient electric racers and market the event by partnering with industry, government agencies, and community outreach programs.

The event focuses on developing and showcasing green energy automotive technology. Last season BGSU competed with only one EV kart, but this year, the decision was made to complete a second racer by combining efforts with Owens students Danny Baldridge, Alan Kubiak and Justin Seckinger, along with BGSU students Nick Reily and driver Seth Cooper. The racer was dubbed the “#19 Falcon Express” to acknowledge the partnership on the team. Crew chief Al Kubiak said, “Like last year’s kart, we have equipped our kart with a state-of-the-art 14kw three-phase electric propulsion system and quick-change out lithium-ion battery packs. To keep battery costs manageable, the event specifications limit us to a total 8.5 kwh of electrical energy, which is the energy equivalent of about one quart of gasoline. Electric vehicle propulsion is actually very efficient, and our driver reached speeds of nearly 45 mph.” He added, “We practiced to make one pit stop during the 100-lap race, and were able to exchange our battery packs in only about 10 seconds.”

The evGrand Prix outreach competition is focused on promotion of electric vehicles and the program. As one of the focus elements, the BGSU team began work last year with Penta Career Center’s Adult and Continuing Education department in Perrysburg. Michael Hall, the evening Automotive Technologies instructor at Penta and automotive instructor at Owens Community College, helped spur the joint venture by contacting the BGSU Electric Vehicle Institute as a means to introduce electric propulsion technology to his students. A plan was born to partner BGSU and Penta students to begin to build the second EV kart with the purpose of sharing resources and giving the Penta students a hands-on experience.

Mr. Hall explained it this way, “The opportunity to work on real equipment is paramount to my teaching style and well worth the time for my students. They have a leg up on other mechanics who know little of how an electric vehicle works. We were able to benefit students from my program, as well as Penta’s Auto Body and Welding programs.

“We have started the relationship with Penta and BGSU that I believe will help build an electric vehicle program at Penta,” Hall said. “This season the second kart team provided the opportunity for Owens students to participate as well. Mr. Palumbo and I envision a continuum of education opportunities for students starting at area schools such as Penta, completing an associate degree at Owens, then completing a bachelor degree at BGSU.”

“Working with Mr. Hall and his students has convinced me that we need to encourage bright vocational students to continue their education. This reality-based program is just the platform to do this,” said Anthony Palumbo, BGSU Motorsports club advisor and Emeritus professor.

Financial support for the teams came from cash and in-kind donations from industry and local supporters like Dunn Chevrolet, Argo Hytos and the Owens bookstore. Funding from The Bowling Green Utility Green Initiative and the BGSU Student Green Fund was specifically earmarked to develop and promote the use of renewable energy sources. The BG City Utility board and AMP Ohio stepped up to support the university team.

“The support of external organizations provides our students a chance to work with the latest equipment and materials. Working with Penta and Owens also demonstrates the benefit from local groups pooling resources” Palumbo said.

The champion of the overall competition is the team that best blends kart design and community outreach with race placement and optimal efficiency during 100 laps of racing. “Who wins an event is not as important as participating. The real winners in this are the students who field the racers, present reports, and present the outreach effort. Finishing first is icing on the cake and provides for bragging rights until the next event” according to Mr. Palumbo.

The purpose of the evGrandPrix program is to accelerate innovation through education. The program is designed to inspire college students to pursue careers in electric vehicles and sustainable technologies by studying and applying science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). The evGrandPrix seeks to encourage students to pursue these fields of study on a national level.

The local teams competed against 30 college teams from across the U.S. and internationally, including Purdue, Cal poly, Western Ill, NW State, and from University of Warwick (UK) Sunderland (UK).

“Motorsports competition at a university level must be more than students racing around a track,” Palumbo said. “We have an obligation by charter to be on the leading edge of technological development and BGSU has a reputation in leading the way in educational programs. The evGrandPrix program provides us with the opportunity to do this.”

The BGSU kart finished the 100 lap event in 2nd place, with the Owens kart finishing 6th.  Outstanding results for new teams. 

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