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Racing to the top

January 30, 2016

Pranav Gujrathi, Soumya Ranjan, Vikrant Saha, Ronak Agarwal

Started in 2010 by a handful of automotive enthusiasts or ‘Gearheads’ as they liked to call themselves, the IITR Motorsports team (commonly known as FSAE team) has come a long way since their inception. The Race cars have already flown worldwide, from Australia in 2011 to UK in 2013. After a splendid performance in Australia this December, the team shot up the rankings to be crowned the top ranked Motorsports team in India in the Electric category. WatchOut catches up with the team to shed some light on its workings, accolades and future prospects.

WONA: Take us back to how and why the group started.

IITRMS: FSAE is a non-profit international body made of automotive enthusiasts around the globe. With the intention of promoting similar interests amongst undergrads and giving them the industry level experience, it organizes these competitions wherein a car has to be designed and developed from scratch with its potential market being that of the Formula style or F1 cars. This car has to pass all the industry level standards and tests before it can qualify for the on-track events. The IITR team for this competition was founded in 2010 and our first car based on an IC engine participated in FSAE-2011, putting IITR on the globe. Again in 2013, the team developed a hybrid car(only one of this kind at the time) which raced on the famous Silverstone circuit of London.

WONA: Tell us about your recent performances.

IITRMS: Most recently, we participated in IITRMS-Australasia 2015 which was held in Melbourne from December 10th to 13th. Designs for our third car, built on a budget of around 45 lakhs ,an all-electric one were completed in January last year and it was christened ‘Bolt’ in November when it first hit the road. Within electrical category, we stood 2nd in both Business and Cost presentation (the static events) and overall 4th among electric cars. We were also awarded The Inspiring Motorsports Award by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports(CAMS) for our electric design and qualifying for the dynamic events in the car’s virgin attempt. Also, we are proud to say after this performance we have left IIT-B behind by 3.5 points to become the top ranking Motorsports team in India.

WONA: Obviously, congratulations are in order. How does the team function to get the car ready?

IITRMS: The team consists of three sub teams- Electrical, Mechanical and Marketing. The electrical and mechanical teams first work on the design. The car is then developed depending on funds from sponsorship which are brought by are marketing team.

WONA: On such a large scale, you are bound to run into some roadblocks.

IITRMS: Well, we have had our fare share of hurdles. The biggest challenge is gathering funds and getting sponsorships .Many components needed for the car are neither cheap nor available in India and have to be imported from China or USA. We need to design keeping the budget in mind and work for the budget keeping the design in mind; which is why we sometimes feel like we are working in a start-up. With the Institute’s reputation at stake and deadlines looming, it’s easy to lose hope in a crisis. Let me recall one such crisis- the Paris attacks led to new regulations for shipping via cargo flights coming into the picture. We were informed by our dealer on the 27th of November (one week before our flight) that the car’s main batteries could not be allowed to fly into Australia. And these were those batteries we had negotiated for over 3 months with a dealer in China to procure. Fortunately we were able to buy a new set of very expensive batteries in Australia at the last moment. Also luck was again on our side when Victoria University allowed us to use one of their workshops to work on our car.

WONA: What is the group involved in, apart from competing in the FSAE competitions?

IITRMS: The objective of the group was never limited to competitions, but rather developing a research hub in the emerging field of electrical vehicles and get industry level experience in designing them. Hybridtronics, a US-based company working in the same field has outsourced 3 of their projects related to Powertrain simulation providing us with sponsorship and internships in return. We have also collaborated with an IITM start-up, Croziar Technicea which is developing electric two-wheelers. Apart from these we have also taken up research projects like Active-Balancing Based Battery Management System, Chassis Optimization Using Genetic Algorithm, Smart Charger and Torque Vectoring.

WONA: What sort of support do you get from alumni and faculty?

FSAE: The alumni are kept up to date with the progress of the car and provide continuous advice and technical insight. Holding senior positions in companies, they also help with funds and projects. Support of our faculty advisors, Dr. Pramod Agarwal and Dr.Akshay Dwivedi is invaluable. Not only do their contacts come in handy while importing components from abroad, but they also help us through all the formalities.

WONA: Lastly, what keeps gunning for the best at all times?

IITRMS: The experience of all aspects of the work, both technical and otherwise prove to be fruitful as proven by our alumni. Working here is similar to working in a small company. As to what keeps us dedicated, a simple answer would be technical learning experience but honestly and quite simply it’s just passion for the cause.