Electric dreams – taking on the world in a self-built racing carAutomotive Industries
Students on the Bremergy team are building a racing car for the Formula Student competition
From 0 to 60 in under five seconds – a feat that is usually the preserve of Porsche, Ferrari et al is no big deal for the compact electric racer built by Bremen-based racing team Bremergy. The car is the result of years of work and countless hours of dedication from volunteers, and the team use it to showcase Bremen’s automotive engineering skills to the world.
Carbon fibre parts, foundry moulds, batteries, cables and a rotary CNC machine – visitors to Bremergy’s workshop won’t encounter the smell of fuel and grease. Only the smell of hot rubber lingers as the compact electric sports car speeds around the test track.
And it is lightning quick out on the track thanks to two 32-kilowatt engines on the rear axle that press the driver back into the seat at the touch of the accelerator. With a low centre of gravity and low body weight, the car generates g-forces that will test even the strongest neck muscles when cornering. "Basically, it drives like a go-kart, only much quicker! Driving this car is the best reward imaginable for all the work we’ve put in," says Fabian Hensel. The industrial engineering student at the University of Bremen is the project manager for electronic development and is responsible for the batteries and power supply in the racer.
Bremergy relies on volunteers
The racing team has a total of 73 members, some of whom commit almost their entire free time, up to five hours a day, to the development of the car. And all while continuing their studies. They all share the dream of building a car that will blow away its rivals and make it into the top ten of Formula Student teams.
And there are plenty of rivals, with 5,600 students from 37 countries working on cars for the competition, which is the biggest of its kind in the world. There are numerous races around the world, with the season’s final race held at Hockenheim in August. This year, 35 teams took part in the electric category, and the team from Stuttgart won.
Many tasks – one team
Building a racing car is more than just mechanical and electrical engineering. Students from a wide range of specialisms are part of the team, including 22-year-old economics student Ann-Maraike Benthien, who, as head of marketing, is responsible for PR activities. "I find it very motivating that I can directly apply what I’ve learnt in my lectures, and it’s exciting to watch a proper racing car being developed from scratch," she says.
The team is organised like a business, with a department for every trade. There are departmental heads, CEOs and a finance department – after all, building a racing car is by no means cheap. The team manages a five-digit budget, which is relatively small compared to other German Formula Student teams. The costs are so high because almost everything is made by the team, with only very few parts off the shelf.
The search for sponsors – showcasing Bremen to the world with Bremergy
That is why these dedicated hobbyists are on the lookout for new sponsors. Large areas of the car are already covered in logos. "But there is always room for more," says Benthien. "We travel a lot with our racer, representing Bremen and our sponsors. The Formula Student events attract visitors and large car manufacturers, and we want to show that Bremen has a lot to offer the automotive sector."
This ambition is underlined by the team’s decision to enter the electric category. Thanks to the new EQ models from Mercedes-Benz, Bremen is evolving into a hub for Germany’s electric vehicle sector. "We aim to prove that we have highly qualified young talent in the field of electric vehicles right here in Bremen," Benthien adds. Students on the Bremergy team can complete internships at the sponsors, and in turn the companies are able to attract highly motivated, skilled staff for the future.
From hobby to professional racing team
The University of Bremen provides the team with the workshop and offices, but they have to work for everything else themselves. "In recent years, we have focused on creating professional structures," says Hensel, "and we have established partnerships with many institutions. We have graduates who are writing their master’s thesis with us – the knowledge we gain this way is invaluable." That is why they have joined forces with other racing teams in northern Germany to create Nordallianz, an alliance to counter the supremacy of the teams from the south.
Learning from setbacks
Last season, the team missed the start of the race in Hockenheim. "We had problems with the electrics. We weren’t able to fully fix these in time and weren’t allowed to start," Hensel explains. The rules of Formula Student run to 180 pages, and in the run-up to each race industry experts carefully check every single screw and connector for compliance with them. But the team bounced back quickly from this disappointment. Benthien was impressed: "As soon as they had the car back in the workshop, they started to look for the fault."
Reaching for the top in 2018
The team is better prepared for the coming season. "We’re working to a tight schedule. We’re completely rebuilding the car and banking on a simpler and more reliable design," says Hensel. Hopefully, the top ten will be within the team’s reach next year.
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