The UCD Formula Student (UCDFS) is one of the most interesting societies within our university. This week I interviewed one of the business leaders within the society to get an insider look into the operations of this ambitious group of students.
First of all, though, let’s quickly examine what it is the society is doing. Re-launched in April of 2018, it aims to design and build a Formula 1-type car to compete in the renowned Formula Student Electric Competition, where races will be held and expert judges will analyse and rate the cars. Thus far, they have built a prototype of the car and are currently working on the internals of the racer. All of this, mind you, is done in the students’ spare time.
The UCDFS is split into three main divisions; Business, Mechanics and Electronics. What exactly is the business aspect of the group? Well, manning a team of 90 towards achieving an ambitious goal within a restricted time frame is no small task. Moreover, there are several parts and components that must be ordered or returned, events that need to be organised and finances that need to be managed.
Perhaps the biggest headache in the group lies in this latter point. The team have managed to acquire some sponsors with deep pockets, but unfortunately, it’s just not sufficient. They launched a GoFundMe fundraiser recently, and have reached €1,265 of their €5,000 goal. Without this, they may not be able to finish the construction of their car. Linked to the fundraiser is the advertising of the project. A marketing team is in place, who are managing campaigns on social media to bring attention to the project. The pages are full of car-related puns, so if that’s your thing you should go give them a follow!
Coming back to the competition I mentioned earlier, the Formula Student Electric Competition; what exactly is it? Held annually in the iconic Silverstone circuit, the competition is widely recognised as being a prestigious engineering event. Organised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, international teams travel from around the world to compete and be crowned champions. The competition often gets participants a foot in the door of acclaimed companies, so it’s a great initiative to be involved in from a career perspective.
In my eyes, however, the main achievement of the society would not be to win the competition (though that would also be great!), but rather to promote and develop electric vehicles in the country. Ireland is a laggard in terms of meeting the environmental goals of the EU 2020 initiative. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted the country is more likely to reach a 1% reduction in emissions than to meet the target of a 20% reduction. Not only is this shameful for such a developed country and detrimental to the environment, but it will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euros in penalties, fines and forced measures from the EU to coerce us on track.
Environmental welfare aside, we need to look at the move towards electric cars from an economic perspective. It is futile to argue that they are not the future; take Tesla as a prime example. Their Model 3, a budget-friendly electric car, has become the US’s fifth best-selling car since production began in late 2017. Considering that the US is the second largest market for new cars globally, it is possible to say this is a trend that the rest of the developed world can expect to experience.
In any regard, the research and work of the UCDFS is a promising step forward for Ireland’s electric car scene and is more relevant than ever. If the team are this enthusiastic whilst balancing college work, it’s anyone’s guess what they can achieve when they graduate and continue working in the field. However, in the meantime, I wish them the best of luck in their endeavours and hope they bring back gold!
By Alex Lohier – Business Editor