Flemish team wins Formula Student competition with electric race car


A team of students from KU Leuven and Thomas More College won the design prize at the Formula Student Czech Republic with an electric model, just as the Flemish energy minister announces the need for universal electric infrastructure

‘Emphasis on innovation’

A team of university and college students from Flanders has won the Formula Student competition in the Czech Republic. They beat more than 50 teams with their electric-powered race car, Umicore Pulse, to win best design.

The Formula Student Czech Republic is an annual international competition for students in higher education. It is part of a number of Formula Student competitions, all of which challenge students to build a single-seat formula race car. Cars are judged not just on speed but on performance, construction and financial and sales plans.

Aside from the top prize, team Formula Electric Belgium – made up of students from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and Thomas More College in Mechelen – also won bronze in the acceleration category. It is not required to create an electric-powered car; that was a decision made by the team.

“The first place win is the best one this team could win because it puts an emphasis on innovation,” said team leader Arthur Coppieters who is studying industrial engineering.

3D printed cooling system

A team made up of students from the two institutions enters one of the Formula Student competitions every year. This year, the team focused on a unique cooling system that was developed with the use of artificial intelligence and manufactured using 3D printing.

“I am extremely proud of all the team members; they put their hearts and souls into this car, and this year and this achievement will stay with them for a long time.”

The team won the competition just as Flemish energy minister Bart Tommelein announced a plan to work with Belgium’s other two regions on standardised loading stations for electric vehicles. He then wants to introduce the idea at European level.

We need to be able to take a citytrip with our electric cars, or spend a holiday in France or Germany or Italy

- Energy minister Bart Tommelein

“If you want to make a real breakthrough in the sale of electric vehicles, you have to make it easier for people to cross borders,” Tommelein said this week from an e-mobility test event at Circuit Zolder in Limburg. “About 80% of Belgians drive fewer than 50 kilometres a day, so using an electric car is do-able for them. But we also want to visit an amusement park over the border sometimes or take a citytrip or spend a holiday in France or Germany or Italy.”

Today, electric car manufacturers made different kinds of loaders, and electric stations have different infrastructure, not to mention differing payment systems. “We really need to make this uniform,” said Tommelein. “One universal power plug, payment with a bank card or via app.”

Once he works out a proposal with his colleagues in the other regions, and also perhaps throughout the Benelux, Tommelein plans to approach EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the Energy Union, with a proposal for universal charging infrastructure.

Photo: The Umicore Pulse in action
©Courtesy Thomas More