August: Talented engineering students win prize with hand-built electric race car | News and features


The atmosphere was electric at Castle Combe Race Track as a car built from scratch by students from Bristol flew around the course and won an organizer prize.

Over the past year, around 30 students from Bristol Racing have designed and built an electric car to take part in intercollegiate races.

The company’s first competition, 9/11, saw them come 13e out of 25 teams and win a Spirit of Greenpower Award from the organizers.

Although the team had spent months in the workshop, they had not been able to test their car on the road before the race.

Richard Hughes, Bristol Racing Co-Chairman, said: “It was a great day. I was the one pushing the car down the track and it was exciting, but also quite intimidating.

“We knew the car had to move, but you always have in mind ‘what if it doesn’t?’ So seeing him go was an incredible experience.

“The team is looking forward to getting back into the workshop: we want to come back next year with an even better car and test ourselves against the big teams.”

Bristol Racing was established just 12 months ago by Richard and fellow Bristol Mechanical and Electrical Engineering student Owen Peckham.

A previous racing company had disbanded a few years before, which meant that Richard, Owen and their team had to build the car from scratch.

Richard said: “Having a blank canvas is intimidating, but it can also be quite liberating.

“As a new company, we had to design our car on a limited budget. We don’t have any sponsors, the only money we got was membership fees and a scholarship from the Faculty of Engineering – so it was a bit difficult!

The team car, driven by Matt Appleby, overtook several rivals and clocked 10 laps in 45 minutes.

Michele Augousti, acting CEO of race organizer Greenpower Education Trust, said their event was a “wonderful celebration of the hard work of our participants over the past year to design and build their own electric cars”.

Ian Bond, Dean of Engineering, University of Bristol, said: “Congratulations to the team on this incredible performance. It truly encapsulates the commitment and ingenuity of Bristol engineering students and demonstrates the importance of learning by doing.

“As we move to a net zero economy, it’s critical that our next generation of engineers have these opportunities to design, build and test the technologies we’ll need to achieve our goals.”

Over the past year, Bristol Racing has been split into four sub-teams, each tweaking a different part of the machine:

  • Electrics including batteries, motor, cruise control, lights and horn
  • Aerodynamics, including car shape and profile
  • Mechanical power, including transmission, brakes and steering mechanism
  • Chassis, ensuring that the base of the car is sturdy and safe

The event is sponsored by Renishaw, an engineering company based in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.

Most of the team members are studying engineering. Many of the diverse courses offered by the University – mechanical, civil, and design, for example – consistently rank among the best engineering courses in the country.

Bristol Racing co-chairman Owen Peckham said: “Projects like this allow students to apply the skills learned in their degree to real-world issues and develop greater passion in their work.

“We think this is important because this opportunity should make our members more experienced engineers in the future.”

Over the next 12 months, Bristol Racing will build on this year’s progress with an even better car. Richard and Owen will also continue as co-chairs.


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