The sounds coming from Five Flags Speedway wasn’t what you’d typically expect with more than 30 cars racing for first place. Instead of needing earplugs from the deafening roars of engines, the crowd could barely hear the cars that were making their laps at a special Earth Day event in April.
Sparking an interest in electric vehicle technology and the engineering field is why the Gulf Power Engineering Society teamed up with Five Flags Speedway; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers of Northwest Florida; Institute of Electrical, Electronics Engineers of Northwest Florida and the Northwest Florida Clean Cities Coalition to sponsor the ninth annual Emerald Coast Electrathon Classic 120 Race.
The Earth Day event on April 22, is sanctioned by Electrathon America and attracted 180 team members on 19 teams who put the batteries of more than 30 electric vehicles to the test. Two teams were running the advanced Lithium batteries in at least one of their vehicles.
The race had its biggest turnout ever at Five Flags Speedway. Schools in the Pensacola area include Pensacola High School, Crestview High School and Pensacola State College. Other teams came from Alabama, Georgia, central and south Florida.
More than 40 volunteers from Gulf Power’s Engineering Society, ASHRAE and IEEE facilitated the event.
High school and Open Class teams competed in the race with electric vehicles they built from a kit or from the ground up. The vehicles had to pass a pre-race inspection to ensure they met Electrathon America Rules which also includes safety features.
The race included two separate 60-minute heats to see how many laps they could complete on a battery charge. Some of these racers only get to test out their vehicles in parking lots. So racing on a professional track added challenges and fun, Hanna Tracy, from Brandon High School near Tampa, pointed out.
“It was a different experience because of the incline on the track … going up and down,” said Tracy who enjoys building and racing electric vehicles and came in 17th place out of 29 high school division teams. “The car had a throttle issue but other than that, it ran pretty nice.”
Adding to the professional race realism was the addition of a new feature; lap counting and timing was recorded by the NASCAR track monitoring system used at all races at Five Flags Speedway.
“This event is so important for students,” said Vaughn Nichols, a Gulf Power employee and the race promoter. “They utilize mechanical and energy transfer skills including maximizing energy efficiencies through a teamwork approach.”
Edward Dane Jorgensen, a senior at Pensacola High School, has had a love for working on cars since he was 6 years old. Building and racing an electric vehicle with his school team added fuel to his interest in pursuing computer engineering at University of West Florida in the fall.
“Working on electric vehicles is different but I enjoy it … seeing it come alive,” said Jorgensen whose team came in sixth place out of 29 of the high school division teams. “This was my second year at this event. Racing is stressful because you have to watch your speed. I did lose control on the practice lap. It was scary.”
Go to emeraldcoastelectrathon.com for race results and more information about this annual event.