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Electric-powered race car comes to Genie Industries in Redmond
With the sound of squealing tires filling the air and guys doling out concessions to spectators watching a Formula car do laps around a coned-off course, the parking lot at Terex Corporation/Genie Industries in Redmond could have easily been mistaken for a racing event Tuesday morning.
One of the only things missing — besides the sun — was the sound of revving engines.
This was because the featured vehicle was an electric race car, though onlookers would have been hard pressed to tell the difference if not for its quiet engine.
"It has the same performance as it did when it was a gasoline car … Anyone who drives it is blown out of their minds," said Zach Fung, who led the team that converted the car to electric.
He said the car could go 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds when it was gas powered and can still achieve 0-60 mph in less than four seconds now that it is electric. Click here to see the car in action.
Fung graduated from the University of Washington (UW) in March and converting the car was the capstone project for him to receive his mechanical engineering degree.
He was part of the UW Formula Motorsports program as a student and was a member of a team that designed and built Formula-style cars as part of an international collegiate competition series through the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE). The car Fung converted was built by students in 2010. He said it took him and two other students about three months to convert the car from gas to electric.
Fung had been a student intern at Genie and said he took what he learned during his internship and applied it to his project.
Mark Qvale, engineering director for Genie, said the learning process in their internship program goes both ways because as employees, they can develop a narrow thought process and students often provide new insight into their projects.
"That's been the best part for them and us," he said.
Qvale said Genie has sponsored UW Formula Motorsports since 2004.
Fung's car project was also sponsored by Genie. It was brought to the company's Redmond campus for a special driving demonstration and employees were initially going to be able to drive the car, but the rain prohibited this for safety reasons.
The only person who drove the car was Ryan Charrier, one of UW Formula Motorsports' drivers. A senior in the mechanical engineering department, Charrier is the operating director for the team and said he did not have a big part in the conversion. Most of his experience has been with gas-powered vehicles, but this did not make him biased against Fung's car.
"It's actually easier to drive," Charrier (above, right) said. "When it's going, it's really fun."
He said the car feels slower due to its simplicity as it does not require shifting and does not have an engine that revs. But Charrier said if he had to choose, he would prefer the electric car if the battery had a longer life.
The car runs on a lithium-based battery that can be removed and fully charged in 12 minutes. Fung (above, left) said they have two batteries that can be switched out in less than two minutes.
Jeff Weido, a senior product manager at Genie, said learning about battery technology will be a boost to the company's product development.
"Battery technology is important for us for obvious reasons," he said. "It's a really good tie-in to what Zach and his team have been doing."
Weido added that there has been a growing interest in electric-powered or hybrid construction equipment as people face more economic and environmental constraints and Fung's car project can be used as research for Genie.