From 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 1.513 seconds. This world record for an electric car was achieved by students from the Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ) in 2016 – and it hasn’t been broken since.
Every year, some 50 aspiring mechanical and electric engineers produce a prototype of an electric racecar to compete with colleagues from around the world in various Formula Student competitions. Another team with around 30 members takes a model from a previous season and turns it into a driverless version.
All in all, the electric team has been the world champion five times now, while the driverless team has won every race it has competed in since the category was first introduced in 2017. “Anyone can win on a good day, but to remain so consistently at the top makes us particularly proud,” says Rafael Bänziger, head of this year’s driverless team.
New minds for new ideas
AMZ’s success shows that Zurich is an important development center for mobility. It’s a place that embodies a new way of thinking, engrained in the infrastructure of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich with its world-class researchers.
The fresh spirit is also a guiding principle: “We start anew every year by completely replacing the teams. Former team members and technical experts only act in an advisory capacity,” says electric team leader Valentin Oetliker. This makes it possible to implement innovations that would otherwise be difficult for a seasoned team. Of course, this is only possible because there are enough outstanding young men and women who dedicate themselves fully to a project for an entire year.
Developing, organizing and producing
The driverless team in particular is known for attracting students from around the world. “Many come to Zurich to study in the internationally renowned robotics master’s program,” says Bänziger. It has a long tradition of pursuing research in autonomous mobility, and each experience on the racetrack feeds back into academia.
The teams are comprised of students from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and ETH Zurich. Mechanical and electricalengineering students at ETH Zurich even receive course credits for participating in the electric team. And you couldn’t ask for a more holistic engineering education: the team not only develops the powertrain or inverter, but also the financial and production plans. Manufacturing companies supply the components.
“We have good experience with Swiss companies, even if they are not specialized in the automotive sector. After all, precision is precision,” says Oetliker.
A win for the entire ecosystem
AMZ is part of an innovative ecosystem in the Greater Zurich Area, which, in addition to universities, includes manufacturing companies and long-standing sponsors such as the canton of Zurich utility company EKZ or the Zurich-based bank Julius Baer. Important technology partners include the car manufacturer BMW or the Swiss defense supplier Ruag, as well as small, highly specialized companies like Computer Controls in Zurich with its electronic components.
And so, when the next competition season starts in July, AMZ’s Formula Student teams will be cheered from the sidelines by hundreds of equally enthusiastic partners.
Von Yvonne von Hunnius