The Estonian student formula team, Formula Student Team Tallinn, presented two new vehicles they built themselves: a self-driving and a manned electric formula vehicle. At the public presentation held at Tallinn University of Technology on 14 June, both formula vehicles also drove a few circuits. The team will soon travel to Europe, where they hope to return with a trophy at the end of the racing season.
The team was able to prepare for this year’s season for longer than usual, as they were given extra time for development in addition to the regular nine months thanks to the season that was cancelled due to the pandemic. “Although we had more time, the Covid-19 restrictions created uncertainty – we were able to build the formula for a month and then we had to stop for a month. The format of the competitions and the way they would be held in general have also been uncertain – the suspense has created quite a bit of tension,” said Georg Kõivumägi, the captain of the student formula team.
The student formula project is supported by 65 Estonian undertakings, schools, and foundations. The project partners are TalTech and Tallinn University of Applied Sciences and the main sponsors are ABB and Comodule.
“For ABB, working with students is the key to a future that will benefit both parties. It is really great that the student formula team builds a new vehicle every year and introduces almost 60 innovations compared to the previous model. Electric cars are an important part of ABB’s international strategy, which includes both cutting-edge technologies and support for development, for example as a sponsor of the FIA Formula E World Championship. We want to be at the forefront and the new technologies used by our student formula team are a big part of a greener future,” claims Jukka Patrikainen, Head of ABB Baltics.
“We have grown Comodule into an international company with a team of more than 100 members and in the last two years we have developed two brands – Tuul and Äike. This would not have been possible without the student formula team. Student formula, which is undoubtedly the strongest student project in Estonia, has an immense impact on the development of engineers and start-ups of the new generation. As supporters, we are happy to give back to this venture and see the next generation emerging,” said Kristjan Maruste, CEO of Comodule.
On 16 June, the student formula team will begin their journey to Europe to compete with their electric vehicle in the preliminary race in Hungary on 18–20 June, to Austria on 25–29 July and to Spain on 2–8 August and with the self-driving formula to the Czech Republic on 26 July to 1 August where they will go to as defending champions, and to Hungary on 3–8 August.
The season starts in June in Hungary with the FS Easter championship. “It is a test championship, where one can pass technical inspections and fields of competition to face the real championship with peace of mind. The last championships have set the bar high and it cannot be lowered. The vehicle has been sufficiently developed, the test times are promising, now it depends on what the competitors have done,” said the team captain, Georg Kõivumägi.
The student formula team has 42 members, 32 of which build electric and 10 self-driving formulas. The members are all students of TalTech and Tallinn University of Applied Sciences who build the formula after school in their spare time without being paid. The team also includes five women.
Two vehicles have been prepared for the season: the ninth manned electric formula and the third self-driving electric formula in history. Both are formulas with a carbon composite body, an aerodynamics package and four electric motors with a four-wheel drive. This is where the similarities end because, technologically speaking, the two formulas have been developed completely differently.
Compared to the previous vehicle that was used in the race, the electric formula has brandnew kinematics and corner assembly, new tires, a stiffer and lighter monocoque, the centre of gravity has been lowered by 28 mm, it has self-developed brake calipers, and the wiring meets car industry standards.
The weight of the self-driving formula has been reduced thanks to a new pneumatic braking system and a compactly arranged self-steering system controller. The entire equipment that makes the formula self-driving only weighs eight kilograms. With regard to the software, groundbreaking strides have been conducted with cameras that work in mono mode. With the new LiDAR configuration, the formula detects cones from twice the distance compared to previous years. Developments with LiDAR and cameras enable more accurate track mapping and localisation, allowing the formula to go faster than before.
“We make most of the vehicle ourselves. The amount of purchased products and custommade parts decreases every year. The University of Technology has a laboratory of composite materials where the carbon monocoque body, carbon fibre wheels, battery box, controller housing, aerodynamics package, and steering wheel are produced. The Tallinn University of Applied Sciences has a laboratory for cutting with lathes and milling machines. The gear wheels for the epicyclic gear train, track-control arms, mounting lugs for suspension, safety arches, pedals and brake calipers are made there. In addition, the vehicle has 19 circuit boards that we developed and assembled ourselves. The fact that we do these things ourselves is what sets us apart from several of our competitors with thicker wallets,” Kõivumägi stated.
The partners of Formula Student Team Tallinn are TalTech and Tallinn University of Applied Sciences, the main sponsors are ABB and Comodule, and the gold sponsors are Oshino Electronics, Milrem Robotics, and Harju Elekter.
Formula Student is an international product development competition primarily aimed at engineering students, where students design, build and introduce a single-seat formula vehicle.
The vehicle must undergo different tests and race on a circuit. Participating in the project gives the student real-life experience in vehicle design and manufacturing and introduces young engineers to the economic side of the car industry.