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0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds? All-electric? The R22e marks a painstaking but rewarding pivot for the engineering students at NUS from their ICE race cars of old.

29 Jun 2022 | Local News : Singapore


Building a race car is itself already no mean feat. Building a race car while still studying full-time, however, is probably another ball game altogether.

Yet this was the dream put forth by a group of five enterprising third year students, all the way back in 2001. Since then, the fervour has been carried forwards by rotating batches of engineering students, as part of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Formula SAE team.

The R22e is Singapore's first ever electric formula-style race car 
In preparation for the annual inter-varsity Formula SAE competition in Michigan, U.S.A., 19 prior race cars and two decades of experience in chassis and powertrain development have passed through the team's hands relentlessly. The result today is this: Singapore's first ever electric race car, called the R22e. 

A fun fact to note is that with 107bhp, the R22e actually has roughly the same amount of raw power as a Toyota Vios (106bhp). It's also propelled by 230Nm of peak torque. But raw power doesn't tell the full story; the race car weighs in at just 208kg, compared to the Vios' portly 1,085kg. 

That makes its power-to-weight ratio - 514 hp/tonne - more than five times that of the Vios. We're told that this figure is even higher than the 2006 Bugatti Veyron's, which apparently stands at 490hp/tonne. 

A carbon fibre monocoque chassis helped to contribute to weight savings in the R22e over the R21
What this all means is that the car can shoot from rest to 100km/h in a mere 3.9 seconds, towards a top speed of 125.4km/h. Shaving extra weight from the preceding R21 combustion-engined race car was also in large part possible thanks to its carbon fibre monocoque chassis - a step up over the former, which only incorporated the lightweight material partially. 

On paper, the R22e came together at lightning speed; a mere matter of 18 months was all it took to arrive at the car's final working form. But the Formula SAE Project's Advisor, Professor Seah Kar Heng, revealed that the work in the background never stopped. Development of the 2020 and 2021 cars continued in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions. 

In moving towards the R22e thereafter, the journey took an even more arduous turn. Pandemic-induced delays and disruptions hampered the assembly and manufacturing phases, necessitating separate work hours and shifts for the team, which even saw evenings and weekends getting burnt. 

Professor Seah Kar Heng, Advisor to the NUS Formula SAE Project, addressing the event's guests 
Then, there was the need to start afresh with the requirements of an electric drivetrain. As one team member explains, the team's lack of experience led them to reach out to all manner of experts, from their very own university teaching staff to local companies. 

Addressing the media and other guests at the event, Professor Seah noted, "It isn't as easy as it sounds. You don't just plug in the battery to replace the engine. There are so many things to be changed - the transmission, the chassis... The whole scheme of things changes."

The R22e now stands as a testament to that hard work - and not just because it functions successfully, but also because it boasts better performance than the preceding R21 car. 

The success of the R22e stands as a testament to the team's months of painstaking effort
The team's resilience was affirmed as well by the Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance, Mr Chee Hong Tat, who was the event's guest of honour. Mr Chee also took the opportunity to reiterate the government's commitment to an EV-ready future for Singapore, as well as to highlight the importance of higher education institutions in grooming a skilled workforce in Singapore's move towards a greener economy.

Hardcore petrolheads may be comforted to know that the combustion engine was well-loved even among the NUS Formula SAE team. Jokingly sharing that he was experiencing some "withdrawal symptoms" after being "deafened by twenty years of internal combustion engine sounds", Professor Seah admitted that the aural docility of the R22e took some getting used to, even for himself.

Nonetheless, he also acknowledged that the world as a whole was taking this direction of sustainability, and that the team was fully committed to moving in step.

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