The Formula Electric Belgium team is harnessing Belgium-based Encore’s award-nominated recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) honeycomb material for the front wings and undertray for their Titan race car, which was revealed on May 24.
The rPET honeycomb cores are made of 100% recycled material, mainly sourced from post-consumer and industrial PET streams. EnCore says rPET honeycomb can be used for a range of applications, including motorsport, because it offers high mechanical performance, high temperature stability and is low weight.
The team of engineering students produced the front wing skin out of natural flax fibre. Last year, the team used carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers for the skins of the wing profile. Aluminium stiffeners, like ones found in airplane wings, were used to make them stiffer.
However, to adopt a more sustainable approach without compromising on performance, Formula Electric Belgium replaced the aluminium stiffeners with rPET honeycomb to produce a sandwich panel which was both lighter and more rigid.
Formula Electric Belgium required a thermoformable material for its front-wing design. The team started with constant thickness to shape the wing, using heated molds to press the core into shape. The entire undertray of the 220-kg (485-lb) race car was also made from EconCore’s rPET honeycomb cores.
Through optimising the use of rPET honeycomb technology, the automotive team claims it has been able to reduce the wing weight by 26% compared with the same size wing from last year. The lightweight front wing component is also highly rigid and can withstand forces equivalent to almost 1,000 times its own weight. Under a three-point bending test, the wing was capable of withstanding 46kg of force.
Encore says it enabled the Formula Belgium Team to be part of the testing process which proved to be crucial in developing the material.
“With the rPET honeycomb core, Formula Electric Belgium were able to produce a highly rigid, lightweight front wing component which weighed in at only 50 grams,” Wouter Winant, technical manager at EconCore, says.
“And at the same time this shows that achieving optimal performance is possible with sustainable materials. Our rPET honeycomb core technology is available to be licensed for a variety of applications and Formula Electric Belgium have perfectly demonstrated the material’s versatility.”