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A group of guys standing around a race car.
Members of the Formula Electric team stand behind their first electric car, which they built as part of the Formula SAE organization. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering/Danielle Sullivan

In January 2021, Texas A&M University’s Formula SAE, a student organization that builds different Formula cars for competitions, debuted a new team, Formula Electric (Formula E), which focuses on building formula-style cars with pure electric engines. The team will be competing with their first-ever formula electric car on June 15, 2022, in Detroit at the International Speedway.

Luis Garcia, graduate student and project manager for Formula E, described the team as an opportunity for young engineering students to gain experience in the complete engineering design process.

“In our classes, we only learn so much,” said Garcia. “We are taught the fundamentals of the theories we are supposed to know, but Formula E is a place where students can apply them not only physically, but throughout the entire process from scratch to the final product.”

During the complete engineering process, students research past designs similar to what they are trying to create, design components such as parts and materials that they will need based on what they have learned and construct and manufacture them. When finished, students validate their work by making sure that the analysis they made in the beginning was correct and that the vehicle works.

“This provides students with a lot of skills for the automotive industry and can be applied to any engineering field because of that common process,” said Garcia.

Garcia serves as a point of contact for the team, and when there is a problem, the students go to him for guidance and work together to create solutions. He oversees the entire team and makes sure they continue on the right path to success.

“This is a first-year team, and there is no blueprint we can follow since no one else has done it before,” said Garcia. “We are truly learning from scratch, and I just try my best to help out the team.”

Dr. Srikanth Saripalli, professor in the J. Mike Walker '66 Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of Center for Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor, emphasized that the team is filled with engineering students of all disciplines. He said there is a high demand for manufacturing electric vehicles.

“There has been a push toward electric-based transportation,” said Saripalli. “Every major manufacturer of passenger vehicles has decided they will focus on electric vehicles over the next decade, primarily because of emissions.”

Saripalli said major companies such as Tesla and Toyota have moved to Texas to begin manufacturing. So, as an important venue for electrical and mechanical engineers, it was important for Texas A&M to get into the electric business.

Throughout this one-year process, Formula E not only helps students apply their fundamental knowledge from courses to the building of the cars, but also helps them build teamwork, communication and leadership skills while also acknowledging that everyone has different skillsets.

“Communication is key, and there are many moments that could have gone better if there was communication,” Garcia said. “It is impossible to know everything, and there will always be someone else that is a subject-matter expert, but this is motivation to always keep learning.”

Follow the Formula E team

Texas A&M’s Formula E team will be competing with their first-ever formula electric car on June 15 in Detroit at the International Speedway. Stay up to date with the team during this competition by downloading the “Formula SAE” app and searching the team number 244.