Moments before race time, Kennesaw State University’s Electric Vehicle Team was worried its electric go-kart would not finish the International evGrandPrix, an intercollegiate competition of electric-powered go-karts, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month.
Not only did the team finish the race, but its go-kart was the first to cross the finish line.
Crew Chief Chris Ernst, a KSU senior majoring in electrical engineering, said the team’s race strategy focused on endurance and clean driving and not solely on speed in order to complete 50 laps on a two-thirds of a mile course, which totaled about 10 miles.
“We just kind of went with a little more strategic way to run the race because our batteries were a little bit crummy,” he said.
As the clock ticked down to race time, the team just wanted to be able to finish the race, which took place May 12.
Driving at about 50 miles per hour, team driver Gabriel Capo, a junior studying mechanical engineering technology at KSU, navigated the race on the historic speedway.
Constantly monitoring the go-kart’s energy levels, Capo drove a clean race with no crashes and finished first.
“Your blood starts rushing. It’s the whole energy from the field,” he said. “It kind of motivates everyone to do their best.”
By the end of the race, the team’s worries about lack of battery power faded, and Capo said he was confident the kart could have gone about 30 more laps.
About 20 teams from the United States and Great Britain competed, but none could match KSU’s endurance. The KSU team was one of two teams who never took a pit stop during the race.
Tyler Rowan, an electric engineering junior from Douglasville, said the go-kart would have used up all the available energy and possibly would have lost control and hit a wall if Capo had used 100 percent of the power.
Rowan said the go-kart recouped a little energy every time Capo slowed down or let off the accelerator, which helped the team race to victory.
This year marked the fourth time KSU’s student competition team raced, but this year’s competition included an engineering design portion, which required the team to present the project’s design plans and research.
The team is not associated with any KSU class and has about 45 members, including students majoring in electrical engineering, mechatronics, mechanical engineering technology and industrial engineering technology, as well as an arts performance major.
Although the electric go-kart season is over, the team is trying to garner support for an electric go-kart race in the Southeast. For now, the team is focusing on developing a full-sized electric vehicle that will compete in the Formula SAE electric vehicle competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, in June.
By the time the next electric go-kart season rolls around, Ernst said the team will probably have new batteries for their winning vehicle.