The two Formula Student teams, Rennteam and GreenTeam, are located close to each other at the University of Stuttgart. Both teams design and build their cars mostly independently – the Rennteam builds a combustion car, the GreenTeam builds an electric car. Is this independency their key to success?
What a night! It was a historic double victory for Rennteam and GreenTeam when both teams placed first place in the combustion and electric competition in Italy. Never had it happened before that two teams of the same university had both won at a Formula Student event. What makes these teams so special? How and where do they work together?
GreenTeam and Rennteam are located at the University of Stuttgart. The Rennteam designs and builds its combustion cars in the FKFS building while the GreenTeam has their own container which functions as workshop, office and electric development centre. If you visit the teams, you have the impression that they are separated, whereas other teams in the Formula Student claim for themselves to be one team with two cars. In Stuttgart it is obvious that there are two different teams. Is this their key to success?
This season the Rennteam has approximately 38 members, whereas the GreenTeam has 52 members. The teams are separate when it comes to organizational structures. You might think that the teams should use synergies to make the organization more efficient, but this double structure is the Stuttgart approach to win. Every member of the teams wants to build a car not just to participate in events, but to win events. Building a car which is as fast, light and as reliable as possible is very hard when you have to make compromises – and you have to make lots of compromises when you try to build a single monocoque and aerodynamics package for a combustion and electric car. The suspension requirements also differ depending if you have a single combustion engine or multiple electric motors. Combustion and electric cars additionally have very different needs when it comes to electrical systems, cooling systems and wheel assemblies. In Stuttgart it was therefore decided to develop these two different concepts with two different teams.
Having two teams also brings disadvantages. In only a limited number of cases could we establish a synergy between the teams that would reduce the time and material requirements. If we were, for example, to build the same monocoque for both cars there would be the opportunity to save time and money. The disadvantage to that approach is that such a monocoque would always be a compromise and would do little for our goal to win competitions. Additionally, two smaller teams with a clear structure for each are easier to organise and team member responsibilities are clearer.
One sad thing about having two different teams is that in some events both teams have to compete against each other. For example in Silverstone (FSUK) there is only one class for all combustion and electric teams. Therefore GreenTeam and Rennteam are then focusing only on their own cars, and both teams become fierce competitors for the week. Some events also have the rule that only one team per university is allowed to take part which then also leads to internal discussions regarding competition entry.
There are some areas though where Rennteam and GreenTeam work together successfully. A prime example of this is the common steering wheel for both teams. Each starts with their own specific design with regards to ergonomics and system controls as well as any special features they want to include. Once that is done, the designers from each team come together to make the small adjustments and compromises that still produce a high quality design that satisfies the requirements of both teams. Over the past few years, GreenTeam has picked up additional production partners, one of which has produced steering wheels for the team in the past. For 2014, this partner is able to produce multiple steering wheels for the two teams which helps the synergy between Rennteam and GreenTeam.
Another common element between the teams is the annual rollout presentation event. The organisation of the location, the agenda, and so on is done together by Rennteam and GreenTeam. This is very useful due to the number of attendees and the size of the event. The sponsor events though are organised separately. The sponsor meet and greet is a much smaller event and can be handled by each team on their own. The teams have some sponsors in common, but there are also a number of individual team sponsors, therefore it makes sense to hold two different meet and greet events.
To conclude one can say that the Stuttgart approach has proven to be successful. The historic double victory inItaly last year has proven that building two different and uncompromised cars independently can be the correct approach. Both teams though have the same goal and while they are also occasionally direct competitors, working together smoothly is not always easy but it can beneficial in certain situations that can reward synergies. Event organisation is one particular situation where the teams should work and plan logistics together, something which in the past was not always done. To present the University of Stuttgart as the technologic leader in the Formula Student competition means both teams have to get together more often. With an increase in separated event classes, of which Formula Student Germany is a prime example, both teams will not as often see each other as competitors on the racetrack. Efficient and uncompromised collaborations between the independent design of two separate concepts will help keep both teams achieving their main goal: winning “at home”, at Formula Student Germany, and bringing the combustion and electric trophies home to Stuttgart victorious.
From the Rennteam Stuttgart: Markus Gerlach, 24 years, Automotive and Engine Technology, Bachelor, 2nd season in the Rennteam, his work packages are material and logistics as well as public relations and design of the steering wheel.
From the GreenTeam Stuttgart: Mireille Pistorius, 26 years, studies Corporate Communication (Master), it’s her first season in the GreenTeam and she is responsible for public relations.