Testo and Team Swinburne: Taking electric vehicles to another level

At Testo, we specialise in high-performance testing and measurement technology. This means our products have a massive range of uses – today, we’re looking at one of the most exciting.

The Formula SAE student led race car design competition may not be unfamiliar to many in the world of motors or automotive engineering. It is an international competition, started in the US in 1980 for students to design and produce a race car (combustion or electric), which is then put to the test in real race tracks around the world via local, regional and international races. The competition is hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and is an annual event for students at Universities. 

Let Thomas Bennett - Power and Electronics Co-leader - better explain about this unique competition and how the Swinburne Racing Team has benefitted from the leading Testo technology.

Team Swinburne

The design/production process and the roles within the design/production team:

Team Swinburne is a chance for students of Swinburne University to join the Formula SAE competition. The team is made of a variety of different disciplined students who have banded together to create a team which designs, builds and races an open wheeled, electric race car in F-SAE Australasia. Team Swinburne has been involved since 2001, winning the overall category in 2012 and coming third for electric vehicles in 2016.

Vehicles are judged on the methodology of the design, cost-effectiveness of the vehicle in terms of production, and its performance through a series of speed and endurance tests.  

The team is broken up into the business and engineering parts of the competition, each with their own sections and respective leaders. Both teams comprise a number of specialised sub-sections, in which engineering contains Aerodynamics, Chassis, Dynamics, Power & Electronics, Powertrain and Software.

The year begins with the management team and section leaders setting overarching goals and timelines for the year. For the engineering side, this encompasses the design, manufacturing and testing phases. The design phase is structured around 30%, 50%, 80% and 100% design freeze intervals in which key systems and components are progressively locked in. In the process of design, the team draws from the expertise and experience of our alumni and sponsor network for feedback and review. Once 100% design is reached, the car enters the manufacturing phase where all hands are on deck to get components manufactured and assembled in preparation for testing. The testing phase is critical in ensuring the reliability of critical systems as well as optimising the setup of the car for performance across the number of dynamic events. 

Why you and other engineers in the team enjoy being part of Team Swinburne?

Being a part of Team Swinburne brings together a multitude of different disciplines. The ability to explore an engineering organisation in a practical sense and being surrounded by like minded students, attracts these different disciplines makes for a team like no other. Being a part of Team Swinburne allows aspiring students to gain experience in and learn about the different areas of designing, building and racing a formula style race car.

As a Team Swinburne member, students are able to connect and interact with industry organisations and professionals, enabling them to build a network and leave a lasting impression on potential employers. For engineers of Team Swinburne, one of the ultimate gratifications is seeing your component manufactured and then installed into the car, after the immense time and effort invested in it’s design process.The development of an electric vehicle for the Formula SAE contest is a process of constant evolution, with the previous year’s design and ideas being refined for the subsequent entry.

How the Testo instruments are helping the team to build a perfect race-ready car?

"When going to alumni for feedback during the design state it is crucial to be able to measure and record the data of the issue being discussed. When designing the accumulator for better cooling, being able to easily show a large audience the temperature of the previous accumulator is highly valued by Team Swinburne. This is achieved with the highly visible 8-point laser and image documentation provided by the testo 805i infrared thermometer with smartphone operation, this results in an efficient and well informed discussion.

During the rush to complete manufacture of the car it is important to constantly check the car’s electronics.

Whether it is checking continuity between components or ensuring PCB are operating at a safe voltage. Power and Electronic members opt for CAT III (600V) Testo Digital 760-1 Multimeter, with an accuracy of 0.1mV which guarantees no fault goes unfound.

When assembling the accumulator it is important to ensure that all batteries are at a safe voltage level as well as all modules of batteries are at the desired voltage level to achieve optimal performance. To do this members reach for the Testo’s non contact voltage testers, and voltage testers with 360 degree display to safely check the voltages.

Once all components are installed on the car, Team Swinburne strives to collect as much data as possible to validate the design. When testing the cooling capabilities of the accumulator it is important to record the current being drawn. This is safely achieved with the testo 770-1 clamp meter which lies in the CAT IV measurement category and can fit into the tight toleranced rear of the chassis to measure electrical components without having to disembowel the car to simply check a wire’s current. 


The importance of reliable data when it comes to design, production and various stages of the project:

When pushing our car to the limit or competing against other universities, if one circuit board has a fault the car is rendered useless in an Electric Vehicle competition. This is why Team Swinburne and all teams greatly value accurate data and appreciate ease of troubleshooting. All teams strive towards acquiring and using the best instruments to guarantee rsurprises like board failures don't happen.

Team Swinburne knows first hand just how detrimental invalid data can be, if data from an earlier testing session become corrupt or the circumstances of the data recording are not reliable then the testing session turns into a drive day as member are not able to translate the cars proformance into refinements and are unable to present evidence that their component improves the cars performance. When constructing a circuit board with sensitive components it is vital that they are not exposed to dangerous amounts of voltage, if the multimeters are not providing reliable data components and potentially the whole board can be damaged beyond repair costing the team time and money.

IN 2020 Team Swinburne has reformed the Team Swinburne Standard, the guidelines of proper practices that all members adhere to. To ensure the future members receive a car designed from reliable data and allow them to optimise the car towards becoming Australia’s number one F-SAE electrical vehicle. 

What’s your expectations of TS_21 and Team Swinburne’s performance at the race?

This year Team Swinburne is taking big steps in the F-SAE competition, fueled by our recent success at F-SAE Australasia and F-SAE Sydney. We have taken our time to combine last year's success with new technology to make waves at the next F-SAE Australasia competition.

How to contact us.

Do you have any questions?
We would be more than happy to help you.