Axial Attends Formula E Competition at Art Center College of Design

By Axial Staff on Aug 22, 2013


What is Formula E?  Formula E (elastic) is an annual competition for design and engineering students to design a radio controlled car that is powered by 16 feet of rubber band.  Vehicles are designed by teams from several schools and all cars use the same rubber bands and are allowed only two servos.  Competitors have 13 weeks to design, build and test their vehicles.  The event is in it’s 8th year and is held at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California as part of the Graduate Industrial Design Program.  This year included teams from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena Community College, California State University Long Beach, the Beijing University of Technology and Tsinghua Universities in China.

The competition includes race events where teams compete in a handling contest, a hill climb, a drag race and a best of show award.  The best of show award was judged by a panel including Art Center faculty and designers from Honda, Tesla Motors, Toyota and Axial Racing. Judging was based on a variety of criteria including quality, craftsmanship, materials, style, engineering, branding, innovation, and, of course, performance.

As we viewed the vehicles, we noticed many student went with a three wheel design in hopes of reducing rolling resistance and vehicle weight.



Most vehicles were very minimalist in their design, again in an attempt to reduce weight.


The event on August 8, 2013 drew a large crowd of students, community leaders and race fans.  Competition began with preliminary runs in the hill climb, drag race and handling coarse.  Of the 15 team vehicles, only the 6 fastest vehicles would qualify for each final event.


The drag race was simple, go as fast as possible from point A to point B.  Rubber bands were wound and a servo activated a brake to hold the vehicle at the starting line.  Once released, it was like any drag race, put down as much power as you can without breaking traction.  And keeping the car straight down the track is always good.  In the end First Place went to Team Tensegrity (Art Center), Second to Final-E (Beijing University of Technology) and Third was a tie between H.E.R.O. (Hyper Elastic Racing Organization) (Cal State University Long Beach) and DT Lancers (Pasadena City College)

The Drag Race Winner Tensegrity.  4 wheels kept it stable and going straight.  Sticky tires and a little more weight than others helped put the power to the ground and win the drag race.


The hill climb sounded easy, but a curve was thrown in, literally.  Drivers had to accelerate up the first half of the hill, then make a 90 degree left turn and then continue up the second half of the hill climb.  This required acceleration, braking, cornering skill and hopefully enough left in the rubber band to finish the climb.  Not everyone did.  The final results: First – Final-E (Beijing University of Technology), Second – Telesia (Art Center) and Third – Tensegrity (Art Center)

The Hill Climb Winner Final-E.  Carbon Fiber, light weight and reduced rolling resistance got up the hill with the fastest time.


Probably the most challenging was the handling course.   A quick straight away, then a large figure 8 and then back around to the straight and then finish.  Acceleration, right and left turns and hopefully enough juice left to make it back to the finish.  Vehicle design was of coarse a big part, but a skilled driver could keep momentum and roll corners nicely to ensure plenty of rubber band power to blast the last straight to the finish.

Driving was done more like a G6 with drivers and spotters running behind their vehicles. First -Telesia (Art Center), Second – Tensegrity (Art Center) and Third – Zepher (Art Center)


Handling Course Winner Telesia.  4 wheels and a wide stance paid off for handling.


Finally, the panel of judges including Axial voted on the Best in Show Award.  Judging on quality, craftsmanship, materials, style, engineering, branding, innovation and also considering the performance in the races.  It was tough.  Some that looked great did not perform well and some the looked rather rough were good on the track.  The design winners were: First – DT Lancers (Pasadena City College), Second – Final-E (Beijing University of Technology) and Third – Energy+ (Beijing University of Technology)

Design Winner DT Lancers.  They got points for the design, but also they made almost every part besides the electronics.


The Formula E Best of Show award went to Final-E and the student who came all the way from Beijing University of Technology.  Their vehicle looked great in carbon fiber and machined aluminum but also placed second in the drag race and won the hill climb.


Overall it was a fun time and Axial hopes to attend again next year and there is even some talk of a professional class next year….


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