Singapore's first electric Formula SAE race car built completely by undergraduates

PHOTO: Motorist

What do you get with a group of dedicated engineering students and an idea to go fast? You build a race car out of it. Specifically, you build a Formula SAE (FSAE) race car to showcase your idea, even if it means venturing into new territory. 

On Tuesday (June 28), NUS unveiled its Formula SAE race car, the R22e, with Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat as the guest of honour.

Engineering undergraduates from the National University of Singapore have been partaking in FSAE Michigan, an inter-varsity competition featuring some of the world’s best universities, for a number of years now, even obtaining placing in the top 20 positions among almost 150 universities consistently. Unfortunately, these students have not been able to compete in the Formula SAE Michigan for the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PHOTO: Motorist

However, progress on building and refining their ideas for the Formula SAE cars never stopped, with progress continuing on throughout the pandemic. 2021 also marked the final year that these engineering students would use an internal combustion engine to power their race car, for they decided to make the switch to electric power for the 2022 iteration.

Comparing the figures side-by-side, the 2021 FSAE race car, the R21, made 77 hp and 57 Nm of torque from a 600cc motorcycle engine and was paired with a six-speed sequential transmission, weighed 216.9kg, and did 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds, and with a power-to-weight ratio of 355hp/tonne.

PHOTO: Motorist

The 2022 car on the other hand, the R22e, is powered by an 80kW/107 hp electric motor with a single speed chain drive to transmit power to the rear wheels, and weighs 208.2kg. While the power increase might seem modest, the R22e’s torque figure is more impressive, which at 230 Nm, is a four time increase over the R21’s torque figure.

Combined with the R22e’s light weight, the power to weight ratio is 514hp/tonne, allowing the R22e to complete the century spring in 3.9 seconds. To put that in perspective, that is almost equivalent to the Bugatti Veyron’s power-to-weight ratio of 523hp/tonne. The top speed of the R22e is also higher compared to the R21, being able to hit 125km/h as compared to the 93.8km/h of the R21.

PHOTO: Motorist

The low weight of the R22e is down to its being constructed completely out of carbon fibre, with the chassis itself being a carbon fibre monocoque boasting a torsional stiffness of 6222Nm/degree, making the chassis extremely rigid.

In his remarks, Professor Seah Kar Heng, who is the advisor for the NUS Formula SAE project, revealed that work on the Formula SAE race cars didn’t falter even in the face of the pandemic, with the students continuing to build cars for 2020 and 2021 even when they knew that they were not going to be able to compete in Formula SAE Michigan.

Professor Seah also mentioned how he had “withdrawals” from the R22e switching to electric power after 20 years of NUS Formula SAE cars being powered by internal combustion engines, but also acknowledged that change was necessary, given the global climate situation.

PHOTO: Motorist

One of the undergraduates Motorist spoke to also mentioned that the R22e is not yet fully optimised due to supply chain delays affecting the arrival of certain parts and components, which unfortunately resulted in NUS not being able to compete in this year’s Formula SAE Michigan.

However, the students are taking the lessons they have learnt from building the R22e and will be applying them in the build for next year's car, which they aim to enter in the 2023 edition of Formula SAE Michigan.

This article was first published in Motorist.