The EV team headed to Garysburg, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in NCCAR’s Spring Thaw Event. The event was designed to be an opportunity for teams to get practice in events such as autocross and acceleration. Half the team left for the event around 6:30 PM Thursday night with the Datsun so that they could get to the track early the next morning. The rest of the team joined up at NCCAR around 4:30 on Friday. The Porsche did not join the team on this trip as it is still in the process of being converted from lead acid to lithium ion batteries.
On Friday, the team designed and set up an autocross course for all of the teams to practice on. The Datsun ran well, averaging times around a minute and twenty-five seconds on a relatively long course that included a slalom, chicago box, and 360. In the evening, the batteries started to weaken and when the team checked them they were reaching dangerous temperatures of around 130 degrees Fahrenheit and voltages on about 7 of them had dropped to 0, making them useless.
To handle this tense and upsetting situation, members of the team pulled an all-nighter, working on cooling the batteries, taking out the worn down packs, salvaging batteries, and wiring new packs in. The team also charged the main pack of batteries overnight so that the car could hopefully race again in the morning.
On Saturday, the team spent the morning finishing up the Datsun and getting it to run again. Overall, the voltage dropped from 144V to about 130V with the removal of 4 cells. The team continued to practice on the autocross course throughout the morning, stopping every couple of run throughs to check on how the batteries were holding up both in relation to charge and temperature. The team ended the event with a debriefing of how it went and what needs to be done in the future to prepare for the EV Challenge in April.
Overall, the weekend was a great experience for everyone on the team. Every body got a chance to drive, giving some new members the opportunity to drive the car for the first time. We also had a passenger seat which gave people the opportunity to ride along as the car dodged (and sometimes hit) cones. The team did a great job of keeping positive attitudes in times of stress and hardship when the discovery was made that the batteries had been damaged and was able to put all the things they’ve learned this year to work under a large amount of pressure. The team made connections with members of other teams, talked with people connected to NCCAR, and even got to see a solar powered car brought to the event by a college team.
The team will eagerly continue working on bettering their cars for the EV Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina in April with hopes of bringing a powerful Datsun and a lithium ion-powered Porsche.