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SPAL advises on OBR's electric car cooling conundrum

The MD at SPAL Automotive UK, Matthew Morris, was given a fascinating insight into how young minds tackle the engineering issues encountered when building your first electric race car for the Formula Student competition.

During a 30-minute briefing, Aditya Vachaspati Cooling Lead, Aerodynamics, Oxford Brookes Racing outlined the team's approach to the all-wheel drive car and how all the attention was focused on achieving light-weighting to reduce drag and achieve 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds.

At the heart of the vehicle is the battery pack and it was the cooling of this very important element that Matthew was asked to advise upon.

The team were looking to ensure that cooling was sufficient to sustain the car travelling 22km over 30 minutes keeping the temperature at the optimum level across the whole of the battery pack.

Asking a few pertinent questions, such as when the greatest need for cooling was when the car was stationary on the grid or when in motion, Matthew suggested that the push and pull of airflow provided by the cooling fans positioned at the front and rear respectively, needed to be as smooth as possible, taking into account pressure drops and the space restrictions for the casing and inlet.

The existing arrangement featured fans of different flow rates had resulted in them competing against each other to produce turbulence at one point and an aerodynamic doldrums in the middle of the battery pack.

fan image

OBR team uses their knowledge of the latest electric technology

Matthew was able to suggest some ways to achieve greater balance and efficiency with the cooling fans and left it with the team to choose the best way forward, without the need for a time consuming re-build.

After the session he said: “I was so impressed with how the team had put together their race car with the latest electric technology. It was enjoyable for me to be quizzed by these knowledgeable undergraduates and it will be very exciting helping them work towards a solution.

“Honing their skills in the Formula Student arena will make them eminently employable in the future as they will be ahead of the game as we all get to grips with this enormous step-change in the automotive industry, the transition from ICE to EV.”

Read more about SPAL's association with OBR:

>> Formula Student 2021 presses on

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