THE 2009-2010 CAR PROJECT BEGAN WITH A WRECKED INDY LOLA CHAMP CAR CHASSIS, SUSPENSION, STEERING AND BRAKES. THE STUDENTS MADE DECISIONS ABOUT THE DRIVELINE, THE ELECTRIC BATTERY CONFIGURATION, THE MOTOR AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE BODY DESIGN. IN CLASS, THE STUDENTS LEARN BASIC SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS LIKE AERODYNAMICS AND EFFICIENCY. THE WEIGHT OF THE CAR WAS IMPORTANT FOR THEM TO REACH THEIR GOAL OF BUILDING AN ULTRA-EFFICIENT CAR.
Everything that could be taken off of the car was removed, and they decided that they only needed two brakes, one-wheel chain drive. They used 21 Lithium Ion batteries, daisy-chained together, totaling 60 volts. The chassis is made of carbon fiber, the strongest and lightest weight material available making the body weight only 350 pounds. The metal wire frame weighed only 50 pounds. With the batteries adding another 300 plus the wheels and tires, the car came in around 1,000 pounds total weight.
It was built for efficiency, so even though the Lola had enough power to go faster, it was programmed to run only 45 mph. That way, they could analyze the efficiency during different driving conditions. We measured the efficiency differences by measuring the weight of the driver, the wind speed, the air pressure in the tires, the temperature of the batteries, the temperature of the track and the air temperature.
On the eight-mile oval track at Fort Stockton, Texas, where Bridgestone Americas tests their tires, our Project Lola consistently went around the track and logged over 360 MPGe at its 45 miles per hour pace. When we reduced our speed to 25 mph around the track, we logged 440 MPGe!
THIS CAR STARTED IN A SIMILAR WAY TO THE LOLA: WITH A WRECKED INDY CAR, A 1999 REYNARD CHASSIS, SUSPENSION AND STEERING. THE CHASSIS HAD A HUGE HOLE IN ITS SIDE, SO THE FIRST STEP WAS REPAIR OF THE CARBON FIBER TUB. IT GAVE US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DECIDE UPON A COLOR FOR OUR CAR: GREEN WAS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE!
With our new group of students, the aerodynamic testing and experimenting resulted in a slightly different decision about the body style. These students wanted the air to flow THROUGH the car, rather than up and over the car. So vents were designed and fabricated into the wire frame, and the front had a lower profiled grill, which allowed air to flow through and around the chassis. The decision to design a “road-ready” car changed the configuration of the battery design. We needed more power, so 30 Lithium Ion batteries were installed for a total of 96 volts. Since the vehicle is able to travel at highway speeds,
the plan was to design a more durable body, using the same wire frame technology of Project Lola but with a different skin.
THE LOTUS IS A 1977 ESPRIT THAT WAS RECOVERED FROM CAR PARTS IN SOMEONE’S BACKYARD. THE STUDENTS COMPLETELY DISASSEMBLED THE CAR, CLEANED IT UP PART BY PART, PAINTED, SANDED AND FILED RUST OFF OF EVERYTHING AND PUT IT ALL BACK TOGETHER.
Being our first two-seat vehicle, the car was pared down to 1,880 pounds. It is a plug-in electric, powered by a 20 horsepower DC motor and is equipped with 30 – 3.2 volt, lithium ion batteries for a total of 96 volts. It can reach 70 miles per hour and has a range of 80 miles.
The car was designed for and accomplished a cross-country run from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL. It operated flawlessly. It ran at 55 miles per hour and was charged by a generator in 60 minutes.
At each charging stop (40 stops, over 12 days) the students of MINDDRIVE made presentations to schools, organizations and the public. The students accomplished something that no one had done before.
Project Karmann Ghia
AFTER SUCCESSFULLY BUILDING THE LOLA, REYNARD AND LOTUS PROJECTS THE MINDDRIVE PROGRAM WAS UP FOR THE TASK OF GOING ONE STEP FURTHER. BUILDING ON THEIR EXPERIENCE, THE CURRENT PROJECT IS UNIQUE, BEING BASED ON A 1967 VOLKSWAGEN KARMANN GHIA. THE EARLY VOLKSWAGENS WERE KNOWN FOR BEING SIMPLE AND EFFICIENT— A NATURAL PARALLEL TO THE WORK OF MINDDRIVE.
The project begins by converting a Ghia to an electric-powered vehicle followed by making a prototype based on the Ghia that has a structure made from a sustainable material, wood. The car has a lightweight skin and is designed for short haul, urban or village use. It is designed to travel 30 miles at a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour. The students are planning to roll the prototype into production—approximately one per month—as for-sale, car kits, which is a means of financially self-supporting the program.
The first conversion car is called Series I and the second car for production to be called Series II. The first Series I conversion will be driven from Kansas City, MO to Washington, D.C. in June 2013. Like the Lotus project, the students will drive the car and make presentations at charging stops to other students and the public. The first Series II prototype will be completed in October of 2013. There are several standing orders.