Into the Engine-less Future: WISER Tomahawk

By Marcia Faye

“SAE has been the most important experience that I’ve had at IIT so far; it’s definitely the most tangible project that I’ve seen at a university,” says Katy Banks, Camras Scholar, third-year student at Stuart School of Business, and member of the IIT Motorsports Formula SAE team. “It’s a huge undertaking and a wonderful thing to pour your time into; it has a lot of return.”

Tomahawk

She and fellow members of the IIT Formula SAE team had entered their WISER Tomahawk racecar in the 2015 Formula Hybrid collegiate competition in Loudon, N.H. and took home the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Innovation Award and a third-place General Motors Best-Engineered Hybrid System Award, among other honors. At the competition Banks had such a technically savvy conversation about the racecar’s carbon fiber body with a Chrysler engineer that he declared her an "honorary engineer"—not bad for a business administration major who can now add to her resume that she helped to build a car from the ground up.

Students from a variety of majors have been designing and assembling hybrid and electric racecars at Illinois Tech for more than a decade, says Mahesh Krishnamurthy, the team’s faculty advisor. He notes that students average anywhere from 10 to 40 or more hours per week working on the vehicles, especially when the team is in pre-competition mode. Over the summer students redesigned and built a new battery pack for WISER Tomahawk and will enter the 2016 competition, after which time the electric car will be retired and a new generation of “Hawk” will begin to take flight.

Battery The car uses the energy from the battery directly to run the motors, and the motors run the wheels. An ultra-capacitor, pouch-cell lithium battery (composed of about 150 cells) originally powered WISER Tomahawk. The team has since obtained a prismatic-cell battery, which it will use to power the car in the spring 2016 competition. As these cells are flat in structure, the battery requires only about 80 cells to run the motors. The battery is housed under the driver’s seat. 
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Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your Batteries!
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Body (or monocoque, French for “single shell”) Made out of carbon fiber, WISER Tomahawk weighs only 400 lbs.; Hammer Hawk weighed a hefty 800 lbs. The Illinois Tech team learned the arduous construction process with the help of Sammy Tin, professor of materials engineering. The only steel in the car is the roll hoop and the front roll hoop.
WISER Tomahawk, the latest generation of built-from-the-ground-up IIT Motorsports Formula SAE vehicles, follows a line-up of other successful racecars that were designed and largely fabricated by Illinois Tech students: Red Rocket, Scarlet Hawk, Hammer Hawk, and Thunder Hawk. One of WISER Tomahawk’s greatest improvements is a weight reduction by 50 percent from the Hammer Hawk of two generations ago.  View innovations that made the all-electric WISER Tomahawk  an award winner at the 2015 Formula Hybrid collegiate competition.
Wheels Since it does not have an engine, WISER Tomahawk is powered through its wheels by built-in, permanent-magnet hub motors, which are lightweight (about 20 lbs. each) and high-performance. The car has four-wheel drive and a full-torque vectoring system, hence no drive shafts. The wheels are water-cooled to dissipate heat.
Body (or monocoque, French for “single shell”) Made out of carbon fiber, WISER Tomahawk weighs only 400 lbs.; Hammer Hawk weighed a hefty 800 lbs. The Illinois Tech team learned the arduous construction process with the help of Sammy Tin, professor of materials engineering. The only steel in the car is the roll hoop and the front roll hoop.
Wheels Since it does not have an engine, WISER Tomahawk is powered through its wheels by built-in, permanent-magnet hub motors, which are lightweight (about 20 lbs. each) and high-performance. The car has four-wheel drive and a full-torque vectoring system, hence no drive shafts. The wheels are water-cooled to dissipate heat.
Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your Batteries!
Battery The car uses the energy from the battery directly to run the motors, and the motors run the wheels. An ultra-capacitor, pouch-cell lithium battery (composed of about 150 cells) originally powered WISER Tomahawk. The team has since obtained a prismatic-cell battery, which it will use to power the car in the spring 2016 competition. As these cells are flat in structure, the battery requires only about 80 cells to run the motors. The battery is housed under the driver’s seat. 
Body (or monocoque, French for “single shell”) Made out of carbon fiber, WISER Tomahawk weighs only 400 lbs.; Hammer Hawk weighed a hefty 800 lbs. The Illinois Tech team learned the arduous construction process with the help of Sammy Tin, professor of materials engineering. The only steel in the car is the roll hoop and the front roll hoop.
Wheels Since it does not have an engine, WISER Tomahawk is powered through its wheels by built-in, permanent-magnet hub motors, which are lightweight (about 20 lbs. each) and high-performance. The car has four-wheel drive and a full-torque vectoring system, hence no drive shafts. The wheels are water-cooled to dissipate heat.
WISER Tomahawk, the latest generation of built-from-the-ground-up IIT Motorsports Formula SAE vehicles, follows a line-up of other successful racecars that were designed and largely fabricated by Illinois Tech students: Red Rocket, Scarlet Hawk, Hammer Hawk, and Thunder Hawk. One of WISER Tomahawk’s greatest improvements is a weight reduction by 50 percent from the Hammer Hawk of two generations ago.  View innovations that made the all-electric WISER  Tomahawk an award winner at the 2015 Formula  Hybrid collegiate competition.
Gentlemen (and Ladies), Start Your Batteries!
Battery The car uses the energy from the battery directly to run the motors, and the motors run the wheels. An ultra-capacitor, pouch-cell lithium battery (composed of about 150 cells) originally powered WISER Tomahawk. The team has since obtained a prismatic-cell battery, which it will use to power the car in the spring 2016 competition. As these cells are flat in structure, the battery requires only about 80 cells to run the motors. The battery is housed under the driver’s seat. 
Body (or monocoque, French for “single shell”) Made out of carbon fiber, WISER Tomahawk weighs only 400 lbs.; Hammer Hawk weighed a hefty 800 lbs. The Illinois Tech team learned the arduous construction process with the help of Sammy Tin, professor of materials engineering. The only steel in the car is the roll hoop and the front roll hoop.
Gentlemen (and Ladies), Start Your Batteries!
Wheels Since it does not have an engine, WISER Tomahawk is powered through its wheels by built-in, permanent-magnet hub motors, which are lightweight (about 20 lbs. each) and high-performance. The car has four-wheel drive and a full-torque vectoring system, hence no drive shafts. The wheels are water-cooled to dissipate heat.
Battery The car uses the energy from the battery directly to run the motors, and the motors run the wheels. An ultra-capacitor, pouch-cell lithium battery (composed of about 150 cells) originally powered WISER Tomahawk. The team has since obtained a prismatic-cell battery, which it will use to power the car in the spring 2016 competition. As these cells are flat in structure, the battery requires only about 80 cells to run the motors. The battery is housed under the driver’s seat. 

For the past seven years, Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research has supported Illinois Tech in the annual Formula Hybrid Competition.

“This project embodies the WISER mission to advance interdisciplinary education, research, and outreach initiatives in energy and sustainability—in this case, in the specific area of sustainable vehicle technology development,” says WISER Director Hamid Arastoopour (M.S. GE ’75, Ph.D. ’78). “These types of broad-based initiatives are essential to the development of the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles.”