Inaugural EV Race Team Begins A New Tradition oF Clean Competition
The roar of engines has been joined by the hum of innovation as the UNC Charlotte’s inaugural 49ers Racing Electric Vehicle (EV) team embarks on an exhilarating journey in electric vehicle racing. With their passion for motorsports and a commitment to clean energy, this remarkable team has already established their mark in the history books of UNC Charlotte by being the university’s first EV race team. The EV team joins the existing internal combustion team, both managed by the student group, “49ers Racing.”
The Starting Line
“About a year ago, a few of us in the Mechanical Engineering department joined with The Kulwicki Foundation to start a new team to design, build and compete with an EV car,” said Jim Fox, Research Operations Manager in the Kulwicki Laboratory in William States Lee College of Engineering. “Supported by The Kulwicki Foundation and working together with the BATT CAVE Research Center, this vision began to take shape. Fox and the faculty team knew the EV car would become a common denominator, creating deeper collaboration between students in the various engineering disciplines like mechanical and electrical. This cross-pollination would also make the students even more well rounded for their career after graduation.
In August, 2022, students joined the EV team and set their sights on designing and building a competition-ready electric race car. With a diverse group of brilliant student minds from various fields, they tackled the complexities of high-performance electric cars. Most students are in the B.S. in Mechanical Engineering program with a concentration in motorsports or energy, but others are pursuing degrees in marketing, computer science, and more. The team included the following students:
Franco Antunez – Vehicle Dynamics Team Lead – Data Science
Walker Bond – Mechanical Engineering/Energy Concentration
Kaitlyn Bush – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Vincent Cagno – Ergonomics Team Lead – Mechanical Engineering
Baker Cobb – Marketing Team Lead – Marketing & Economics
Thomas Cobb ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Max Emenheiser – Mechanical Engineering
Jonathon Goldin ‘23 – Electrical Engineering
Cherokee Hall ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Mahraiel Hanna ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Gunter Hayes ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
David Nichols ‘23 – Computer Engineering; Pursuing M.S. in Computer Engineering
Nick Pang ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Sam Parsons – Aerodynamics Team Co-Lead – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Riley Pittroff – Electrical Engineering
Glen Powell – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Rocco Procaccini – Business Team Lead – Marketing
Ash Rai – Mechanical Engineering
Rishabh Ravi – Data Science
Daniel Reese – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Taha Siddiqi ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Ian Sullivan – Overall Team Leader – ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Energy Concentration
Mason Sun – M.S. Electrical Engineering
Kelvin Turner ‘23 – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Alex Volmer – Captain and Powertrain Lead – Mechanical Engineering/Energy Concentration
Greg Wycoff – Mechanical Engineering
Ben Ziegler – Chassis Team Lead – Mechanical Engineering/Motorsports Concentration
Bolded indicates leadership position
Fox explained that the team embraced an extremely complex project for the undergraduate level. “The team, led by engineering students Ian Sullivan and Alex Volmer, not only had to design and build a car, but they also had to design and build all the testing equipment. They really did start from scratch.”
Their ability to collaborate effectively toward a strong first-ever EV competition race car was a testament to their strong team dynamics.
Beyond the Track
Throughout the academic year, the UNC Charlotte 49ers Racing EV team was actively involved in spreading awareness about the potential of electric vehicles. Through various outreach programs and public events, they have discussed the power, efficiency, and eco-friendly nature of electric transportation to audiences of all ages. For instance, this past year, they presented at the Charlotte Auto Show as well as National Drive Electric Week, sharing their design and build process with attendees and other car enthusiasts.
The team also volunteered to present to multiple delegations of economic, government and industry partners who toured campus this spring. By inspiring others to embrace clean energy solutions, the team is not only revolutionizing the racing world but also catalyzing a broader movement towards a greener future.
The Debut in Detroit
The 49ers Racing EV team culminated their inaugural year at the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) EV Competition at the Michigan International Speedway near Detroit in June, 2023. Battling against some of the top universities from around the world, they presented well in their debut.
The team placed 46 out of 68 international competitors, outranking many older teams who had competed in the past. They also ranked among the highest for first year teams. Significantly, the 49ers Racing EV team emerged as the top team in the Carolinas, reflecting the same “best in the Carolinas” accolade earned by the Internal Combustion team just four weeks ago in the FSAE IC competition.
- UNC Charlotte’s first EV race team
- Placed highest among all teams from the Carolinas
- Placed among the highest for first-year EV teams, beating many seasoned teams
“These results highlight the unique advantages available only at Charlotte,” said Tyler Stover, Assistant Professor in the W.S. Lee College of Engineering. “The motorsports undergraduate concentration, BATT CAVE research center, Kulwicki Lab, and the college’s commitment to practical hands-on design projects are all critical factors that boost our students’ capabilities. Many other universities sent a team only in one competition or the other [IC or EV]. UNC Charlotte’s support of both teams concurrently, including the space and resources needed to build and maintain two cars each year, is a great testament to the Niner commitment to excellence.”
Formula SAE is a Collegiate Student Design Competition organized by SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers). Teams of students from universities across the world are tasked with designing, building, and competing in small formula-style race cars. The competition receives significant backing from the automotive industry, with industry professionals judging, networking and recruiting students throughout the week.