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Last combustion engine: New racing car of the Formula Student team of the h_da

It is a historic moment for the Formula Student Team (FaSTDa) of the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (h_da): After months of hardship due to the pandemic, the students have completed their twelfth and last combustion engine racing car before it goes electric on the race tracks from 2022. The road to the "F20" was full of hurdles due to the pandemic: several unintentional lockdown pit stops meant that the new racing car is ready a year later than planned. Nevertheless, the students are confident for the 2021 racing season.

The "F20" was already half finished last spring, the student team had already started production - then came the first lockdown. "We quickly switched our team life completely to online, but we couldn't get into our workshop for several months," explains FaSTDa team leader Leonie Schneider. "When things got better in the summer, we were allowed to continue working on site with a hygiene concept, but then the second lockdown came shortly before completion at the end of 2020." By then it was clear that the F20 would no longer be possible in 2020.

But the students did not let this demotivate them and continued working in online design meetings. "We took the opportunity to take another close look at all the individual parts," says Leonie Schneider. "A lot of creative ideas came up and our goal was to get everything out of the car once again, especially since it is the last combustion engine." At 170 kilograms, the "F20" is now more than 10 kilos lighter than its predecessor. The students gained six kilos alone through new, smaller tyres with lightweight magnesium rims. "Overall, we used lighter, more stable and at the same time reliable components, such as a titanium exhaust system," says Leonie Schneider. With 74 hp, the racing car is another 17 hp more powerful, with the same fuel consumption.

They are therefore looking confidently to the upcoming Formula Student races in Spain and the Czech Republic, after all the races were cancelled in 2020. In 2019, meanwhile, the h_da students were very successful, including a 2nd place in the efficiency ranking at the race at the Hockenheimring. This year, the students are again aiming for a top position. The students are now fine-tuning their new car into the summer and can also meet again in the workshop for this purpose - with a sophisticated safety, hygiene and testing concept that is currently serving the h_da as a pilot for comparable presence laboratory events with students.

The FaSTDa team has also received a breath of fresh air from many new students. The team currently consists of 50 students from 15 degree programmes. "Especially now during the pandemic, getting involved with FaSTDa is a good balance," says Leonie Schneider. A task force meets on Friday evenings to exchange personal information, but otherwise the next big step is already in sight: The "F22", not the h_da team's first electric race car, but from 2022 it will only go electric on the race track.

"This is a big change for us, because we will then be working with a completely new drive technology," explains Leonie Schneider. Wheel hub motors will be used, which will be housed in all four wheels, now common in Formula Student, she reveals that much already. The engine in the rear is then history, which should have an effect on the aerodynamics and thus also on the appearance, among other things. At the same time, the students are working on an autonomous system for their racing car, benefiting from team members who come from courses with a software focus.

"The team effort behind this race car cannot be overstated. Against all odds, the students have worked with huge motivation and professionalism on the F20 project and at the same time managed to retain the character of a student initiative that makes the whole thing so special. It is really a great pleasure to be able to witness this," says Faculty Advisor Prof. Dr. Florian Van de Loo from the Department of Mechanical and Plastics Engineering, who supervises the student team.

The FaSTDa team at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences currently consists of a good 50 students from 15 degree programmes at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. Some of them bring relevant previous experience from technical professions or semi-professional racing into the work. The team is supervised and advised by Prof. Dr. Florian Van de Loo and other colleagues from the Department of Mechanical and Plastics Engineering. The racing car project is sponsored by a number of companies. A list of the sponsors involved and further information on the team and project can be found on the project website and on Facebook