Members of the Cornell Racing student project team at Watkins Glen International, April 14, 2023.

Cornell Racing team excels in all-electric competition debut

The Cornell Racing student project team made history at the Toyota Green Grand Prix held at the iconic Watkins Glen International course on April 14, 2023. The event marked the first competition in the team’s more than three decades of racing that they drove an all-electric vehicle.

Cornell Racing debuted their all-electric vehicle at the Toyota Green Grand Prix on April 14, 2023.

“Our goal was to put our car through an autocross competition before our main competition in June to validate our systems and collect data to make improvements,” said Benjamin Pierce ’23, the business lead for the Cornell Racing team.

Exceeding expectations, the team put down the eight fastest laps of the competition, earning them first place overall. Additionally, they took home an award for the most innovative non-production vehicle at the event.

“Our biggest takeaway has been that we are genuinely in a good position to win ‘the big one’ if we keep up our momentum and push to continue testing and improving our drivers and the car,” Pierce said.

The ‘big one’ is the Formula SAE Electric competition in Michigan beginning on June 14, 2023.

Each year, the Cornell Racing team designs, builds and competes a Formula SAE racecar. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1987, the team has grown to become one of the most formidable FSAE teams in the world, having claimed nine international championship victories to date.

“This team empowers our engineers to integrate classroom concepts with practical applications and compels students to overcome technical and collaborative challenges,” said Lauren Stulgis, the Swanson Director of Student Project Teams. “They are the longest-running of our 34 teams, and it is always inspiring to see how they find new ways to challenge themselves and grow each year.”

In 2019, the team stopped using internal combustion engines and switched to focusing on all-electric vehicles. The transition has been a hard one, and the fact that it has coincided with the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made it any easier. At such times, the strength of the ties formed by Cornell Engineering’s storied Student Project Team experience may be at its most palpable.

Members of Cornell Racing tune up their all-electric vehicle named ARG23 at Watkins Glen International.

“After years of difficulty, we are here because of — and with — the support of our alumni,” Pierce said after the team’s success at the Green Grand Prix.

The vehicle they debuted at the event is called ARG23. Like all of the team’s previous vehicles, it combines the initials of their founding faculty advisor, Albert R. George, the John F. Carr Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus, and the year of competition — in this case, 2023.

ARG23 is the most powerful EV the team has built to date, generating 110 horsepower in a 500 pound frame. Constructing in time to compete — and succeed — at the iconic venue in Watkins Glen required thousands of hours of work (4,000 in January alone) from a dedicated team of more than 60 student engineers.

“Now, we get to use the over 100 sensors scattered across the car to verify every aspect of our design, tune the car to perform at the limits of its potential, and hopefully deliver a winning performance in June,” Pierce said.

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Rebecca Valli