FSAE teams merge to form Illini Electric Motorsports

10/17/2023 Urim Song Zhu

Now merged into Illini Electric Motorsports, the Illini Formula Electric and Illini Motorsports teams are combining their knowledge, expertise, and experience.

Written by Urim Song Zhu

Illini Formula Electric
Illini Formula Electric

UIUC’s two FSAE (Formula SAE) teams are now one.

Prior to the 2023–2024 SAE season, Illinois had two teams competing in FSAE competitions: Illini Motorsports (IM) and Illini Formula Electric (IFE). Since their creation, IM and IFE have boasted incredible achievements and records—most recently, the crowning of IM as the 2022 national champions, as well as their 2023 first-place North American victory and ranking as the #3 team in the world.

Now merged into Illini Electric Motorsports (IEM), the teams are combining their knowledge, expertise, and experience.

Some team members, such as IM’s combustion sub-team, were initially surprised by the merger given their record-breaking season. However, according to new IEM President Hadley So, “This summer, Illini Formula Electric and Illini Motorsports decided to merge because both teams saw complementary strengths in their sister team.”

Indeed, Illini Formula Electric has displayed strengths and high-level electrical, high-voltage, and software skills, whereas Illini Motorsports has displayed significant mechanical skills and knowledge.

"This merger will ensure the long-term success of Illinois in Formula SAE competitions and the success of FSAE members at Illinois, especially as the auto industry and the world embrace a new wave of electrification,” So said.

Illini Motorsports car on the track.
Illini Motorsports

“Another reason for the merger was the ability to raise funds and gain sponsorship, given that auto companies’ research and development focus is now electrical development,” said team advisor and MechSE Associate Professor Emeritus Michael Philpott. Other factors that led to the merger included growing interest in the new Formula 1 electric class, interest in sustainability and emissions/climate mitigation, and Illinois’ peer competitive schools shifting to electric vehicles. 

Merging is a challenging decision, especially when changes need to be made to accommodate new positions and phase out old positions that are no longer applicable. According to Kevin Xue, IEM team captain, a few sub-teams were restructured or absorbed to meet new needs. So also noted that merging two such large organizations was definitely challenging.

“I’m lucky to have a great leadership team to help me work through these issues,” So said.

Ultimately, the restructuring focused on capturing the strengths of both IFE and IM. As a result, the logistics sub-teams have seen significant growth, which in turn enabled better connections with corporate partners that resulted in better tools and learning opportunities for team members.

IEM’s primary goals for the 2023–2024 season are to build a strong team culture, focus on developing the team internally, and design a reliable vehicle.

“This year will be the foundation for future years in terms of team culture,” So said. “Setting a strong foundation will enable us to continue to grow in the future, continue our focus on member development and education, and provide a healthy learning environment.”  

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This story was published October 17, 2023.