The National University of Science and Technology’s (NUST) Formula Electric Racing (FERN) team has made Pakistan proud on various international platforms. The main target competition for this year is Formula Student UK. However, this time the team is not only participating in the electric vehicle (EV) category – it’s also included in the Driverless Vehicle category.
To date, the team has been the first and only electric car representation from Pakistan in Formula Student competitions held in the USA, UK, and other countries. Recently, the team finished on a podium position, again a first by any Formula Student team in Pakistan.
After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, FERN has resumed its on-ground operations. The last season was interrupted in the middle of the manufacturing phase, so the team started off the new season by completing its third electric vehicle.
Manufacturing puts the design ideologies to the test and gives an even better understanding of the practicality of the designs. The team is now looking ahead to the next season, making sure that everything is planned and organised so that they can hit the ground running.
The geographical location of the team has an impact on the decisions made for the season, adding to the challenges in comparison to teams based in Europe or North America. Despite these difficulties, the team was not deterred and instead used it as motivation to work harder. Clear objectives were set for the season so that everyone from the senior management to the junior members knew the direction to take.
Upgrading the Car
In addition to upgrading its powertrain, FERN planned to deploy a sophisticated in-house battery management system. This system is a critical piece of circuitry within the battery pack that the team had worked on previously.
While this may seem straightforward on paper, there are significant challenges that must be overcome. In addition to the financial burden, this upgrade means procuring a new motor, motor controller, cells, and charger from different countries. The team is fully aware of the challenges they are up against and is prepared to meet them head-on.
In order to deal with this, all departments strategic planned their approach, narrowing it down to every possible inconvenience that would come their way. FERN strictly adhered to its timeline and also had contingency plans to support them in case things did not go as planned.
Tackling Driverless Vehicle Challenges
Meanwhile, the Driverless Vehicle department is working on a concept that is new not only to them, but also to this region of the world. Extensive research and self-driven individuals are required to tackle this massive undertaking. The software stack of the autonomous system is divided into four modules:
Shipping a vehicle from Pakistan to the United Kingdom is a significant challenge, one that took a large financial toll on the FERN team. As a result, the team was forced to ship the vehicle by sea much earlier than originally planned, only 1.5 months before the competition. This left little time to work on the vehicle before it needed to be designed, manufactured, and tested.
As the shipment deadline approached, the team began working until midnight each day, right after their classes. The budget the team had allocated for shipment wasn’t enough. At the same time, there were some time-related concerns as it was taking longer than usual to ship things from Pakistan to the UK. That’s when Maersk came on board as the team’s end-to-end logistics partner, taking away all the shipment-related worries.
They were also supported by other sponsors such as Faizan Steel, Hashoo Group as an outreach partner, Hydrogen Vehicle Systems a start-up based in Scotland that designs hydrogen-electric vehicles, and Alpha College.
The team has now successfully shipped the vehicle and is prepping for the competition. This, what the team has achieved in 8 months, wasn’t possible without the relentless efforts of the team members, sponsors, the team’s alumni, and the institute – Pakistan Navy Engineering College – NUST.