Design Spotlight: McGill Formula Electric

By Celia Hameury

If you’ve ever set foot in the McConnell Engineering Building, then you’ve seen the small, sleek race car sitting in the middle of the lobby. Ever wondered who built this fine piece of engineering? Enter the McGill Formula Electric design team.

This student-run team designs, builds and races a formula-style vehicle prototype which is fully electric, offering undergraduate students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in engineering. Despite the highly technical project they undertake, McGill Formula Electric comprises a truly multidisciplinary team. Indeed, the 200 members come from fields ranging from engineering to arts to management, and this diversity accounts for their creativity and innovative vision. The team includes 6 sub-teams, each focusing on a different aspect of the car: ergonomics, chassis, drivetrain, powertrain, aerodynamics and suspension. Even with this structure, members are still mostly polyvalent and encouraged to share their knowledge and skill with more than one sub-team.

McGill Formula Electric has a long history of competing with hybrid and electric race cars, as well as fully electric snowmobiles. Originally formed in 1994 under the name Mcgill Racing Team, they were among the first in North America to develop electric racing vehicles. The team possesses a strong knowledge base from which to build each new vehicle. Each year, they attend multiple competitions, including Formula North, where they have placed among the top 4 teams in North America for the past 3 years. In 2016, they also attended the Formula Student Germany competition, winning 6th place for design.

The team is currently working on manufacturing their next vehicle. All sub-teams are therefore very busy: the electronics team is testing battery management systems as well as assembling wire harness for the vehicle, the aerodynamics team is manufacturing composite aerodynamic elements, while the vehicle dynamics team is developing a new traction control system. The chassis team is drilling a new composite chassis for the vehicle as well, and plan to have a rolling chassis by the end of March. McGill Formula Electric intends to have a working prototype by the end of April, when testing and competition preparation can begin. McGill Formula Electric will compete at Formula North in Barrie Ontario on May 31st and again at FSAE Lincoln in Nebraska, on June 20th.

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