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Lawrence Tech students have new design for hydrogen-powered race kart

Release Date: February 19, 2008

Southfield, Mich. Students at Lawrence Technological University didn’t take the path of least resistance when designing their zero-emission, hydrogen-fuel cell-powered race kart for the international Formula Zero competition.

Their design had to incorporate a large hydrogen fuel cell, a hydrogen tank, an electric motor and super capacitors that provide rapid acceleration needed in races where speeds of 70 mph are possible.

They reached out to students in the transportation design program at Lawrence Tech, engaged a CAD designer from Japan and introduced new materials made out of carbon fiber. The result is a design distinctly different from the karts currently competing on the professional race circuit.

“We wanted something that was cutting edge, but not too involved,” said Camille Robbins, the Body & Chassis team leader for Element One, the student team composed of nearly 50 students from various colleges at Lawrence Tech.

In December, Element One submitted design specifications for vehicle construction, safety features and the electrical and hydrogen systems to the Formula Zero Championship, Student Edition, an Amsterdam-based racing series under the guidance of the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA).

The Formula Zero jury rated Lawrence Tech’s proposal in the top three, along with submissions from Spain and the Netherlands. All teams have until Feb. 29 to respond to the jury’s critique and submit final plans. By March 14 the jury will announce the teams that will compete in the 2008 race season beginning in Rotterdam this summer.

Support in designing the kart body came from students in Lawrence Tech’s new transportation design bachelor’s degree program. This groundbreaking program combines design theory with engineering so that students will gain the technical knowledge to maintain design intent. Instructors Vance Hanna and Keith Nagara worked with students as they conceptualized ideas that fit within the rules and regulations of the Formula Zero project.

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.

Formula Zero’s purpose is to publicize the potential of hydrogen fuel cells to provide a zero-emission solution for transportation. Generating public interest with a racing season will lead to financial support from corporate sponsors that want to publicize what they are doing to meet the growing demand for reduced vehicle emissions.

The goal of the 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, go to www.formulazero.nl. The Element One website is www.ltufz.com.

Lawrence Technological University, www.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 and Asia.