Formula Electric Racing – NUST (FERN) has a rich history of making the country proud at various international platforms. The team has been the first and only electric representation from Pakistan in Formula Student competitions held in USA, UK and other countries till this date. Recently, the team finished on a podium position, again a first by any Formula Student team in Pakistan.
From making Pakistan’s first formula electric car to winning a podium. What’s next on the journey to achieving the unprecedented?
The team resumed its on-ground operations after a two-year long hiatus due to Covid-19. The last season was interrupted in the middle of the manufacturing phase. Thus, once the team had complete access to its garage it started off the season with the completion of its third electric vehicle. Manufacturing puts the design ideologies to test and gives even better understanding of the practicality of the designs. While thorough testing was being conducted on the third EV, the team simultaneously initiated the planning phase for the new season.
The team’s geographical location influences its decisions for the season and adds to the challenges compared to a team that is based in Europe or North America. However, these challenges do not falter the team’s dedication and instead motivates its members to work harder. Targets for the season were set and locked and the team from the senior management to a junior member had a clear direction to follow. The main target competition for this year like before was Formula Student UK. However, this time the team was not only participating in the Electric Vehicle (EV) but also the Driverless Vehicle category.
On the EV side, the team intended on upgrading its powertrain while also deploying the intricate in-house Battery Management System – a piece of critical circuitry within the battery pack, that the team had worked on previously. All of this seems easy on paper until one starts exploring things in depth. Apart from the huge financial burden the upgrade meant procuring a new motor, motor controller, cells and charger from different countries.
The team however, was fully aware of the challenges they were up against. To deal with this, all departments strategically planned their approach narrowing it down to every possible inconvenience that would come their way. The team strictly adhered to its timeline and also had contingency plans to support them incase things don’t go as planned.
Meanwhile the Driverless Vehicle department was working on a concept that was new not only to them but also to this region of the world. Extensive research and self-driven individuals were required to tackle this huge task.
The team was divided into 5 modules: Perception, Path Planning, Controls, Localization followed by Integration and were developing an AI Driver to be installed in an Electric Vehicle.
Shipping the vehicle from Pakistan to UK itself is a challenge that can never be undermined. It puts a huge dent on the team’s finances so the team had no option but to ship it by sea by mid of May, 1.5 months before the competition, further reducing the time the team had to work on the vehicle.
8 months and an Electric Vehicle was to be designed, manufactured and tested.
The Marketing and Communications team was actively pursuing potential sponsors while the technical team was busy designing the vehicle. To make this dream a reality, the team was investing extra hours.
As the shipment deadline approached the team started working till midnight right after their classes each day. The only thing consistent during this time period was the will to achieve the seemingly impossible goal no matter the odds that were stacked against them. Every individual in the team was working at their full potential. The morale was so high that even with the busiest schedule every member tried helping others with their tasks whenever they could.
In a journey like this, there are some predictable factors but some challenges arise that you wouldn’t have forecasted, one of it was the global supply chain issue. The budget the team had allocated for shipment wasn’t enough for shipping the vehicle to the competition anymore. At the same time there were some time related concerns as well as it was taking longer than usual to ship things from Pakistan to UK due to the issue.
Now, there was a need to have a logistics company on board as our sponsor. This is when we found an organization that not only believes in enabling the youth but is strongly invested in decarbonizing the world and its own operations. Maersk came on board as our end-to-end logistics partner, taking away all the shipment related worries.
On our journey for betterment, we also have other companies who share our vision and our ambitions. Faizan Steel has been a long-time partner of the team, supporting the members from day one in times of critical need and believing in their aspirations. Hashoo Group came on board as an Outreach Partner in view of the team’s commitment towards environmental friendliness which aligned with their corporate beliefs.
Hydrogen Vehicle Systems is a start-up based in Glasgow, Scotland that designs hydrogen electric vehicles, which meant they were able to see eye to eye with our commitment to an electric future and lastly, we had Alpha College share our passion for education and empowerment of the youth. Without the support of these sponsors the team’s dreams wouldn’t come to reality.
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, support of its sponsors, team’s alumni and the institute – Pakistan Navy Engineering College – NUST which has provided the team with the means and resources necessary to excel.
To say the least, the struggle each year has never been short of enormous challenges and so has been this year. The team might not have the geographical or financial advantage but the spirit to raise the green flag at such a platform is something that keeps us going. We have a broader vision and this is the reason that we don’t let our circumstances dictate our future or define us. On our journey to betterment and a brighter, greener Pakistan.