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Lawrence Tech takes lead in international hydrogen-powered kart race

Release Date: March 25, 2008

Southfield, Mich. Element One, a student team at Lawrence Technological University, has taken the equivalent of the pole position in the international Formula Zero racing series for zero-emission, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered race karts.

All competitors must use identical 8.5kW hydrogen fuel cells, and only six are available. On Friday Formula Zero race officials based in Amsterdam notified the Lawrence Tech team that it has qualified for the race and finished first in the design competition.

“None of this would be possible without hard work, dedication, and determination to win,” said student team member Mike Samaroo in announcing Element One’s success. “However, keep in mind that this was just the design competition, and although this was a huge accomplishment for our team, we still have the championship to win.”

The racing season is scheduled to begin in August in Rotterdam.

Formula Zero’s purpose is to use a racing competition to publicize the potential of hydrogen fuel cells to provide a zero-emission solution for transportation. The Formula Zero Championship, Student Edition, was created under the guidance of the Alternative Energies Commission of the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA), the worldwide governing body of major motor sports series. The long-term goal is to create a racing competition with full-scale race cars.

The university teams will be competing in smaller, essentially go-kart-sized versions that are capable of reaching 70 mph. The student teams had to design a kart with room for the driver as well as the fuel-cell package, a hydrogen tank, an electric motor and super capacitors to provide rapid acceleration.

When it came time to design the body of the racing kart, Lawrence Tech’s Body & Chassis team reached out to students in the new transportation design program inaugurated last fall by Lawrence Tech’s College of Architecture and Design. This groundbreaking program combines design theory with engineering so that students will gain the technical knowledge to maintain design intent.

The result is a design distinctly different from the karts currently competing on the professional race circuit, according to Camille Robbins, the Lawrence Tech Body & Chassis team leader.

Robbins said the final design of the vehicle was inspired by the new F-22 and F-35 fighter planes with the intent of creating something that was instantly recognizable as American. “We wanted something that was cutting edge, but not too involved,” she said.

Element One also incorporated new materials made out of carbon fiber – a lighter, stronger replacement for steel that has been tested in numerous research projects at Lawrence Tech’s Center for Innovative Materials Research (CIMR).

The overall goal of Lawrence Tech’s Element One team is “to change the way people think about energy and sustainability through high-performance, zero-emissions racing.”

For more information about the Formula Zero competition, visit www.formulazero.nl. Lawrence Tech’s Element One team website is www.ltufz.com.

Lawrence Technological University, ltu.edu, offers more than 60 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes 75 years ago, and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, with education centers in Lansing, Livonia, Clinton Township, Traverse City and Petoskey. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.