International students Eckart Kunze and Ashim Pandey are key members of TU Delfts successful Formula Zero racing team.
It was 23 August, 2008, when the first hydrogen-powered car race was held in Rotterdam. Over two physically and mentally stressful days, the question continuously running through the TU Delft team members’ minds was: “Did we do everything possible to get the best out of our car?” They did. After two races, against five other university teams from the United States, England, Spain and Belgium, TU Delft’s Formula Zero Team declared the winners.
Since then, the team improved the car’s design, building a new car every year and never shrinking from the challenge of producing improved ‘green’ energy-driven vehicles. Prior to 2011, the Formula Zero Team’s three cars were basically glorified go-karts. After 2011 however the step was taken to the next level: the team’s first formula car, called ‘Force IV’, was a great success, breaking the world record for hydrogen-powered cars.
The team is currently working on a new track racer, which will have its first test on 11 July at the Formula Student race held in the United Kingdom. The team’s plans are clear: to be at the forefront in the application of fuel cell technology and knowledge.
TU Delft’s Formula Zero Team is also important in that it has an international student component: Eckart Kunze, from Germany, and Ashim Pandey, from Nepal, are key members of this year’s team and say the opportunity to be involved in this particular student project had a big influence on their decisions to study at TU Delft.
“When searching for a university to study abroad at for my Erasmus exchange year, I selected TU Delft mainly because I wanted to work in the Formula Zero Team,” confirms Kunze, a 5th year MSc mechanical engineering student at TU Dresden. Arriving in Delft last September, he quickly got involved in the project, becoming responsible for the design of the car’s chassis and bodywork.
Pandey, a second-year BSc aerospace engineering student, is also fully engaged in team activities, but still focuses more on his regular studies. “While searching for universities, I received a brochure about TU Delft and read about the opportunity to be part of the Formula Zero Team,” Pandey recalls. “My enthusiasm for this car and project led to my decision to attend TU Delft.”
To be accepted as a new team member, Pandey was interviewed by the team’s chief engineers, in order to determine the right spot for him within the team. “Because of my field of study, it was decided that I should work on the car’s aerodynamic structure - the chassis,” Pandey explains. “Because of the connection between the shell and the cooling system, I got the chance to work in a totally new field. But
without having any earlier experiences in working with something similar, I had to read a lot about different configurations of side F1 cars’ side pods. After doing that, I was able to figure out the right configuration for the design needed.”
Pandey credits the relaxed atmosphere and helpfulness of the other team members for making his work much easier. “By applying knowledge I’d never used before and learning new skills, you also get a greater understanding of the science you’re confronted with in your regular studies,” he adds. “For a student, that’s a valuable experience I’m fortunate to be having.”
For Pandey, the importance of being part of the Formula Zero Team transcends his work on the car: “The opportunity to make friends with people who have the same interests helped me grow in a new social environment far from home.” As Pandey’s home in Nepal is some 9000 km from Delft, he loves the fact that he can spend weekends and evenings socializing with his teammates, enjoying shared meals and outdoor BBQs.
For the next two weeks, Kunze and Pandey have loads of work ahead of them, as they scramble to finish their work on ‘Force V’ ahead of the team’s presentation, on 23 June, of their new racing car on the Spuiplein in Den Haag. After that, ‘Force V’ will be loaded onto a trailer for the ride to its first real race in England on 11 July. As ‘Force V’ will be the only hydrogen-powered car among the 110 other competitors, the Formula Zero Team must prove yet again that it has a winning formula for environmental-friendly driving.