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New achievements for Chalmers Formula Student

​"We’re very pleased with our achievements in both Austria and Hungary! In Hungary, it was the first time that Chalmers Formula Student competed with a driverless electric car and we still came in seventh place with 24 teams competing. So, one could say that we won the rookie league, which feels great," says Linnéus Karlsson from the Chalmers team that took part in two rounds of the world's largest engineering competition for students, Formula Student, this summer. 
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Chalmers' participation in Formula Student, the world's largest engineering competition for students. Ever since 2002, students from Chalmers' Formula Student course have designed and built their own Formula cars to compete against teams from technical universities from all over the world. In the 2015 round, the combustion engines were replaced by electric motors and since 2017 a new competition class was introduced as it was due time for self-driving electric cars to enter the racetrack. 

During the summer it was time for the 2022 edition of the competitions to take place. First in Austria and a couple of weeks later in Hungary. And for the first time, the Chalmers team was able to roll out a customized electric car adapted for both manual and autonomous control to the starting grid. A result that has been prompted by a multi-year and fruitful cross-department collaboration. 

“The fact that we were now going to make the car autonomous required additional skills in the team. Ever since electric cars were introduced in the competition, this project has taken place in collaboration between departments and this year we were able to bring in more to work with electronics and software. Which went very well,” says Björn Pålsson, Associate Professor of Dynamics at the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences and course leader of the Formula Student course.

“You work right to the wire"

This year's Chalmers team included around 30 students, mostly Master's students from Mobility Engineering, who have worked hard since September last year to get a car ready to go on time. All stages must be completed within a few months: from pre-study, design work and building of the car and finally testing.

“It’s good engineering to start from previous designs and carry over some parts, but the majority of the parts of the car are improved and redone. According to the rules, the team must be able to demonstrate "significant changes to the chassis structure" for the entry to qualify. If the judges notice that the car is too similar to previous entries, they’ll be disqualified,” explains Björn.

This year, the team also needed time to develop an autonomous part that was ready to be fitted for the self-driving race in Hungary but removed for the driver-controlled races in Austria. And the process has no doubt been paved with a considerable amount of stress.

“You work right to the wire. Time is short. It’s a big task in itself to build a car and typically the ambition level is too high for the vehicle concept. The only thing we have been tampering with is the amount of test time. But the team has managed to realize their concept and their idea and I think they should be very pleased with that,” says Björn.

During the competitions, the cars are scored in static events that assess the design and financial aspects of the car, and dynamic events that include: acceleration, which means that the car should cover a distance in shortest possible time starting from standstill, a so-called "skid pad", which means that the car drives in a classic figure eight-shaped track, and driving on tracks of various lengths. In the driverless race, competitors use a remote control equipped with only a start button and an emergency stop. Apart from that, the car needs to be able to get around the track autonomously.

​"One could say that we won the rookie league"

So how did it go?
“In Austria, we came in tenth place in total. In Hungary, it was the first year that our team competed with a driverless electric car and we still came in seventh place with 24 teams competing. So, one could say that we won the "rookie league", which feels great. And it probably beats our achievements in Austria. The other teams had been competing with driverless cars for a few years and the fact that we were able to succeed this well on the first go feels great. But we’re very pleased with our achievements in both Austria and Hungary," says Linnéus Karlsson, one of the members of the Chalmers team and master student in technical physics. 

“And of the 24 teams in Hungary, only four teams in total managed to get their car around the ten laps of the track drive course. And we were one of those four teams. Which we consider a success,” says Jakob Gunnarsson, also part of the Chalmers team that competed in this year's edition.
Here you can watch a film from the driver controlled race in Austria and here you can watch one from the driverless races in Hungary! 

The Chalmers team performed best of the Nordic countries, and although their achievements are considered a success, it was – just like in previous years – the Germans who dominated on the winners’ stand. In the Austrian competition, it was the German team from Stuttgart that won the gold and in the driverless races in Hungary, the German team from Karlsruhe came in first place. 

“The German teams are very competitive, and they test more and have a lighter car. Our team at Chalmers can no doubt build a "state-of-the-art" car, but the best German teams are better at building a lighter car. And they also have great drivers," explains Björn. 

Sharing of knowledge and arch-rivals

And despite the fact that the presentations that the teams give to the judges are closed to competitors, the sharing of knowledge is generous between the teams during the events. Which the Chalmers team tries to make the most out of ahead of upcoming competitions.

“We’re looking at all the teams, but above all the German ones, in order to find out what is state of the art in this area. Most teams are open about their designs, and you can definitely learn from each other. And we’re developing our own power electronics within the framework of the course. So, we hope the car will be lighter next year. Currently, our car weighs a bit more than 200 kilos in the manual configuration. The best German cars only weigh about 170 kilos, says Björn.

The German teams may be a leading country in the field, but it’s a completely different competitor that the Chalmers team and - perhaps above all - their course leader Björn are trying to beat. 

“I’ve made NTNU in Trondheim our arch-rivals, just because it’s fun to have one and because they’re Norwegian. And this year they actually performed worse than Chalmers, even though they are normally very good. So, it's great if we can beat them once in a while. When NTNU's car broke down in 2018, the commentators said that the entire Chalmers team probably would be getting a round of beer for beating NTNU” says Björn, laughing.

"You get to do something for real" 

Today, a couple of weeks after the 2022 Formula Student has been concluded, the team members are confident that the lessons learnt from the experience will bring benefits, not only in the preparations for next year’s round, but perhaps even more so for future studies as well as professional career. 

“The best thing about this course is probably that you get to work both theoretically as well as practically. I come from Engineering Physics which is primarily theoretical. Here you really get the chance to participate and do something for real,” says Formula Student member Linnéus.

And fellow student Jakob agrees:
“Even in industry, you will never get the chance to get as involved in all stages of the chain. But here, you really do, from start to finish.”

“A Formula student team basically faces the same challenges as a real vehicle manufacturer, but on a smaller and simplified scale. But the same skills are required. In addition, they get the practical experience of building and testing cars themselves in this project. And the course is very popular among employers. One of the main skills that the students will get is to better coordinate their skills with others and see exactly how exactly their qualities will fit into the whole entity,” says course leader Björn Pålsson.

In just a couple of weeks, the next Formula student course starts at Chalmers and recruitment is in full swing.
“The students may originate from all kinds of programs at Chalmers, but mainly they tend to Master’s students from mechanical, electrical or computer science. So, just send in an application and we'll follow up with an interview,” says Björn.

Read here for more information about Chalmers Formula Student! ​

The Chalmers Formula Student Driverless team has previously competed in the autonomous cathegory in 2018 to 2021, and the Chalmers Formula Student team has been comteting in the driver controlled cathegories between 2002 – 2021, making this year the first in which the Chalmers Formula Student team entered with an autonomous car. 

Text: Lovisa Håkansson

Page manager Published: Fri 02 Sep 2022.