The Gator Motorsports team at the University of Florida is preparing for its next competition in June, and team members are doing something unprecedented this year.
For the first time in program history, the team is racing an electric car, which marks a significant milestone for the team and highlights the growing trend toward electric vehicles in motorsports.
For over two decades, the Gator Motorsports team, a student-run organization, has competed in the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) design competition. The competition challenges university students to design and build a formula-style race car to compete against 120 teams worldwide. The goal is to demonstrate engineering and design skills.
The team’s president, Jack David, said he believes developing an electric vehicle is a natural progression for the company.
“Our team has always prioritized innovation and sustainability, and developing an electric vehicle fits perfectly with those values,” David said. “Electric vehicles are the automotive industry’s future, and we want to be at the forefront of that change.”
Marla Eisman, the team’s vice president of sponsor relations, agrees.
“We are grateful for our sponsors’ support as we venture into uncharted territory,” she said. “The transition to electric vehicles is occurring quickly, and we believe sponsors and the Formula SAE community will receive our innovative and sustainable approach.”
Creating an electric vehicle requires an entirely different skill set and knowledge than that needed to create a traditional combustion engine vehicle. Gator Motorsports spent months researching and designing the car, considering weight distribution, battery placement, and motor efficiency, said Sean Barney, Gator MotorSports computer engineer and recruitment coordinator. They also had to consider the unique challenges of racing an electric car, such as maximizing regenerative braking and managing battery life.
Despite the difficulties, the team said it is confident in its ability to compete with its electric car. They have tested their car and are currently fine-tuning it to make sure it is on track to ensure maximum performance. The team hopes to demonstrate the potential of electric vehicles at the Formula SAE competition and inspire others to adopt more sustainable practices.
The efforts of the team have not gone unnoticed. The University of Florida has been recognized as a leader in sustainable transportation by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Gator Motorsports team’s decision to build an electric car only adds to that reputation, David said.
David stressed the significance of sustainability in motorsports. “We believe that sustainability is also critical to the industry’s future.”
Barney agreed, adding, “We wanted to build an electric car because it’s the future of the automotive industry, and we want to be part of that change. We also wanted to push ourselves as engineers and see what we could accomplish with this new technology.”
The plan to create an electric vehicle has been in the works for three to four years, according to Barney.
“The competition has been switching to EV (Electric Vehicle) as a whole, and more competitive teams that push the boundaries in engineering have been switching to EV,” said Barney “That’s why we’ve been in the process of switching to an electric powertrain for a few years now, and 2023 is the season we’re confident enough to pull the trigger and manufacture the new car.”
Eisman said he believes the team’s innovative approach will also benefit the automotive industry.
“Our team members’ skills and knowledge gained from building an electric car will be invaluable in their future careers. Electric vehicles are the future, and our team is getting ready for it by learning about this emerging technology,” Eisman said.
Gator Motorsports at the University of Florida is making a bold statement by building its first-ever electric car. The team said it hopes to finish first this year after finishing third in 2022.