Creating legitimate, fully-functioning electric vehicles right here on campus, the Penn Electric Racing team is an opportunity to be involved in an elaborate engineering project that connects design, creativity and cutting-edge technology.
The club’s mission revolves around building a real-life electric race car that the team takes to competition. In fact, this past year, Penn Electric Racing won the Society of Automotive Engineers' Formula SAE competition in an international field of over 100 teams.
“I see Electric as a small company,” said Engineering senior Manfred Reiche, who heads the team. “It’s like a startup company. You can get out of the experience whatever you want to get out of it.”
Penn Electric Racing offers different opportunities for team members in the form of divisions. “We have a business division of about 15, including sponsorship, publicity and securing parts," Reiche said. "We have about 15 on electrical, so the electrical engineers who oversee everything, and then the bulk majority are on mechanical which is broken down by parts and other smaller aspects of the car.”
The team has seen a regeneration of sorts in recent years.
“A lot of the club members graduated in 2011, so the team slowed down for a few years. Then in 2013, the competition we attend opened an electric car racing division, and a bunch of us got together and said we really want to do this," Reiche said. "So [we] essentially based off a couple old models that we had, we completely redesigned the cars, we bought the latest technology, and we started building race cars."
Two years ago, the team built their first race motor, Rev0, with 10 people. The following year, 25 people built Rev1, and the team took Rev1 to the Formula SAE competition in Nebraska. They won seven of the eight events at the competition, each of which tested different aspects of the car such as overall design, cornering, endurance and time-trials.
In multiple events, the team bested not only electrical vehicles but gas-powered vehicles as well. Reiche says that winning the competition has helped put Penn Electric Racing on the "roadmap", especially at Penn, as is evident from the influx of applicants the club received.
Reiche also spoke about the club's plans for the future. “We are completely redesigning our car,” he said. “Our main goal is to get it under 400 pounds ... we’d be the first school in North America to build a car that light. We could take the same car to competition and probably do very well, but these guys want to keep pushing, so we’re redesigning.”
Penn Electric Racing also aims to prove that electric vehicles are “better than gas combustion vehicles,” as Reiche puts it. Gaining increased exposure in the community and generally being able to reach more people and educate them about electric cars is another one of Penn Electric Racing’s goals.
“My goal is to make sure this keeps running for the next 10 years," Reiche said. "Hopefully we can keep growing a team that’s excited to learn."
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