BYU Racing builds electric formula-style race car, looks for more student participation

Members of the BYU Racing club gather around a PVC pipe chassis they built during the design phase of their race car. As they wrap up designs, the club will begin welding as actual chassis for its formula-style race car this November. (Photo Courtesy of David Reinhardt)

The BYU Racing Club invites all majors to join and contribute to the club’s goal of building a fully electric formula-style race car to compete in a nationwide competition against other universities next June.

With more than 200 contributing members, the recently established BYU Racing Club is now a thriving organization. As it begins utilizing funds to meticulously design and gather parts for its race car, it may be hard to believe that as recently as May of last year, the club was just a BYU student’s pipe dream.

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David Reinhardt is a senior at BYU studying mechanical engineering. He is one of the co-founders of BYU Racing. (David Reinhardt)

David Reinhardt, a BYU senior from Omaha, Nebraska, is studying mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science. Reinhardt was involved in the first attempt to start a formula-style racing club a few months before May, but because of the lack of organization, funding and resources, the club fizzled out, leaving only a Slack channel in its wake.

“In May (of 2022) I sent out a message in the Slack channel saying ‘Hey guys, I really want to build this car, so meet me this day, this time, and we’re gonna get started.’ So that first meeting was me, Brad and one other guy, and that’s kind of how it got started. It’s been cool to see it grow to so many people” Reinhardt said.

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Brad Nelson is a BYU grad student in mechanical engineering. He is one of the co-founders of BYU Racing. (David Reinhardt)

Brad Nelson, from Gilbert, Arizona, is a second-year BYU graduate student studying mechanical engineering and one of the co-founders of BYU racing. Nelson shared his enthusiasm over the club’s mission and how much attention it attracts from future employers.

“The main purpose of the club is to develop a single seater formula style race car, so if you’ve ever seen F1 on TV, or IndyCar … those are some of the fastest cars in the world … we’re developing a race car just like that to compete against other universities,” Nelson said.

The club is currently preparing for a racing competition taking place in June 2024 in Michigan on a NASCAR racetrack. For the competition, the race car will go through a series of tests such as one in straight-line acceleration, driving a figure 8 and an endurance race of 30 minutes of driving.

“The car is an electric vehicle, the max voltage is 450 volts … and it goes zero to 60 in probably three and a half seconds, so really quick,” Nelson said. “The top speed is probably 75 miles an hour for this little car and it weighs about 400-450 pounds, so a really really light car. This is the same type of acceleration that you can expect from some Ferraris and Lamborghinis.”

BYU Racing spent the last year and a half developing prototypes and online blueprints for the car as well as gathering funding for parts. Starting in November, the members will begin manufacturing and ordering parts, welding the chassis together and building the race car from the ground up. They plan to have the car fully built by March 2024, so they can run tests and train the racers before the competition.

BYU Racing is open to all BYU students regardless of major or experience level. The club’s main purpose is to help students get hands-on experience with engineering as well as business, marketing, teamwork and leadership. Whether a student participates in the club for an hour a week or five, the contribution is valuable and opens doors for job opportunities.

“We seriously want as many people as are interested, or if you just like F1, you just like NASCAR, you just like cars in general, we want you and there’s a place for you on my team. We want you like crazy!” Nelson said. “There’s a ton of stuff to do, and we just cannot find enough people to do it.”

According to Nelson, the club has been getting a lot of attention from companies and networks reaching out and asking if they can hire its engineers, business students and leadership team.

“I get those emails weekly … the opportunity is ripe here,” Nelson said.

Zack Mckell, a senior in mechanical engineering from Portland, Oregon, expressed how much genuine fun he has had being a part of BYU Racing, and how it doesn’t require any prior experience to join and become an asset to the team.

Mckell said he’s made a lot of friends through the club, and several large companies set aside a day specifically to connect with BYU Racing club members about future job opportunities.

BYU Racing is hoping to gather all BYU students to its cause, whether they have engineering experience or not. Students can learn more about participating in BYU Racing on its website and Instagram

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