Surprises are part of what makes the Formula Hybrid Competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway so stressful, and so exciting. Undergraduates and graduates from across the globe have converged on the Magic Mile this week for the ninth annual competition, which features high-performance hybrid and electric race cars build by teams of engineering students.

"I see this as a place to show off," said Braedon Lohe of Scituate, Mass., who is in his senior year at the University of Vermont. "It's awesome to hear that what we're doing here is appreciated by people out in the industry. There's a lot of manufacturers here that are seeing what we're doing. That's invaluable." 

The only such contest of its kind in the United States, Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering is once again the host. Students compete in aspects of design, acceleration, handling and endurance of their vehicle, and abide by a long list of rules. Formula Hybrid teams, however, are faced with the additional challenge of optimizing both energy efficiency and sustainability of materials used in their cars. 

"Last night we had an interesting revelation that two of our 72 cells in our battery pack failed, so we've had a scramble to try and pull those out and get everything back together in time," said Dartmouth junior Ben Parker of Nantucket, Mass. "It turns out that it's difficult to make something work reliably, so that's the challenge for us right now. But this is a lot of fun and you learn so much from not only what you're doing, but watching and taking to other teams. It's an amazing experience to be here."

Wednesday provided the most dynamic day of on-track action, with both the Acceleration Runs and Autocross taking their turns. Thursday is the Endurance event (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with awards to follow on-track competition. A full schedule of the week's events can be found here.

Student teams designing and constructing a Formula Hybrid car can immerse themselves in any or all of the following disciplines:

  • High-power electronics, including motors, generators, controllers, and DC-DC converters
  • Mechanical systems, including suspension, steering, braking, chassis design, body design, and ergonomics
  • Race strategy and energy management
  • Computerized systems control
  • Data acquisition
  • Internal combustion engines, including intake and exhaust systems, fuel management, camshaft profile design, and ignition systems
  • Regenerative braking systems
  • Project management

A total of 27 schools and universities, including teams from Canada, India and Turkey, are registered for the four-day Formula competition. Competition sponsors include New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, SAE International, IEEE, SCCA New England Region and Reliable Carriers, Inc.

"For me, my goal is (a job in) the automotive world," said Kamran Krshat of Pakistan, who is in his final year of graduate school at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. "This is great because you've got (different manufacturers) to talk to in the garage. It's a gateway into the automotive world that you can't get anywhere else but here."