Engineering Competitions, just like the majority of competitive sports, require a very self critical and analytical mindset. Some may call it the ‘growth mindset’ - but to us it’s just our ordinary way to think. We at KTH Formula Student always focus on ourselves and our performance, and analyze it to see how and what we can improve.
However, one aspect where Formula Studnet differs from the majority of competitions, is in its complexity. Many aspects have to cooperate for the team to be the best. First, but not in order of importance, is what perhaps is most visible to spectators - driver performance. Secondly, the engineering side of things - followed closely by business aspects, weather and tire choice - the list goes on.
From our side, we cannot control every aspect. Our tire choices are limited, the competition is formed so drivers have less of an impact - leaving car performance as the most important factor. To make sure we deliver a competitive car, one might think that us engineers just have to spend a lot of time at the drawing table, and by our computers, doing simulation. That is often far from the truth. When we have developed a car design we are happy with, awaits several rigorous testing sessions, to find out if that design works in reality as well.
One group who are especially dependent on testing sessions, are our Vehicle Dynamics (VD) team. Ansh Gandhi, team leader at VD, explains the sessions importance;
“From VD perspective, there are three major things to be looked at - Model validation, Tuning the car and Control systems testing. During model validation we focus on making an accurate representation of the car in the simulations so design decisions for suspension and control systems can take into account the real car as much as possible.”
Gandhi mentions that reality often differs from simulations, and emphasizes the importance of testing how the two compare. After model validation, the VD team move onto setting up the car;
“The second part involves tuning the setup of the car (springs, weight distribution, damper settings, toe, camber etc.) to make the car go as fast as possible and make the driver comfortable with it. Lastly, we install the developed control systems to the car (traction control, torque vectoring, regenerative braking etc) and test them on the track to see how they perform on the real car and evaluate them."
Ansh Gandhi, Viktor Hallbeck (Mechanical Design Lead) and Harikrishnan Radhakrishnan catch up with our driver Hugo Nerman after an out lap.
But before the driver can even jump into the car do the setup, our Powertrain and Electronics start their testing session.
“The first thing we test, is the safety systems of the car” - explains Harikrishnan Radhakrishnan, team leader at Powertrain and Electronics. Before anything can be performed on the car, all the safety systems must be in place to make sure that the car is safe to work on. He continues to tell us about the rest of their testing session;
“After that, we primarily test reliability by pushing the powertrain to it's limit, and to see if both HV and LV holds up to vibrations and running time temperatures. We look at the performance of the cooling system, battery management system, to determine if they can handle the high load. Once finished, the main aim is to tune the inverters to our liking and to that of the drivers."
Therefore, testing sessions our invaluable to our team; it’s the only way we can make sure that the car is performing to its maximum, the way we want it to perform. With every session come new improvements, new ideas, which make the car better and better by small marginals - and it’s by those marginals we are able to outperform our competition.