Rutgers Formula Racing Goes Electric

The RFR Team at the 2022 NY Auto Show.

For more than 30 years, Rutgers Formula Racing (RFR) student teams largely composed of School of Engineering students have designed, built, and raced new race cars with combustion engines in annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competitions.  

At last year’s Formula SAE, Rutgers Formula Racing, the #1 engineering team at Rutgers, was numbered among the top 10 in the world for business, ranked 11th in design and 15th overall out of 120 universities.  

RFR has since mapped out a new route. This June, when it competes in the 2022 Formula SAE Michigan, it will be racing their first-ever electric vehicle (EV) against 58 other EV teams. It will also be the only Formula SAE team in the nation sponsored by Nissan Corporate. 

“RFR members gain crucial skills in engineering, management, and leadership,” says Onur Bilgen, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and RFR faculty advisor. “Building an electric car will continue Rutgers’ proven legacy of excellence in formula racing.” 

Racing into the Future 

According to RFR president junior Arnav Chenemilla, the group committed to going electric in July 2020. “Electric is the future, and we wanted to be part of that,” he explains. “Some of our fiercest competitors and fellow world leaders in Formula SAE were also beginning to transition to EV.”  

When COVID-19 forced RFR online, the club decided to take advantage of the time it gave them to focus on making the switch. “Many of the world’s best teams are already alongside Rutgers in our journey to our first EV competition,” Chenemilla says. “We’re still waiting for the top international teams to make the switch, but I think it’s only a matter of time as the world shifts to electric cars.” 

Chenemilla, an environmental  and business economics major, reports that the car’s build is nearly complete. “The chassis is almost wholly welded and in its final stages of fabrication, and the composites team is  preparing for the major composites elements to be laid up.” 

Upholding a Legacy 

While numerous SoE students are currently serving on the RFR team as everything from team vice president, project manager, and business, electronics, and brakes/controls leads, Chenemilla notes the contributions of three members of the SoE Class of 2022; project manager Kishan Patel, Greg Scatko, the team’s suspension and data acquisition lead and electronics lead Mazen Abdalla. 

In addition to carrying RFR into a new electric era, these team members applied the technology developed to create a brake dynamometer for  their senior design project, winning the fabrication award during the Mechanical Engineering Design Expo. 

Committed Sponsor Support for a New Direction 

RFR sponsors are indeed happy to support RFR as it goes electric. “Long-term sponsors were enthused with our new direction – and new sponsors have only been supportive,” Chenemilla notes. “It’s a chance for them to sponsor a team with a better – and renewed – mission of advanced technology and clean energy.”   

And it’s a mission that should propel RFR into the winner’s circle in the years to come.