How to Build an E-Car from Scratch

How to Build an E-Car from Scratch
How to Build an E-Car from Scratch

It starts with a group of Upper Schoolers, an engineering challenge, and a grand prix event.

This spring, the Sidwell Electric Car Race Engineering Team (SECRET) entered the DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix, an annual electric go-kart race at RFK stadium, after spending months in the bottom level of the Upper School garage building a bespoke car. Thanks to freshman Ruhan Khanna ’27, it was the first time a Sidwell team has participated in the event since 2016. After scrolling on the School website’s clubs page, Khanna discovered the dormant electric go-kart team, reached out to friends, and revived the group. “Some team members, including myself, have always been passionate about cars and motorsport,” Khanna says. “That ignited the spark that got the club running.”

The students asked Upper School physics and math teacher Natalia Jasper, who teaches the engineering elective at Sidwell Friends, and Middle School science teacher Badia AlBanna ’92, to act as their advisers. They then went through the School’s club-approval process. Once they received the green light, the students faced a new challenge: raising $5,000 to buy the components needed to construct a car from scratch. The team raised funds and attracted corporate sponsorships to reach their goal.

Then the actual build started. “Each stage of the project presented its own difficulties,” says Khanna. “The electronics and wiring were especially challenging as all of the components were sensitive and a small mistake, such as a loose connection, could fry the main controller.” Every task, however, engaged the team in new ways. “The project has interested many of us in engineering, computer science, and even finance,” says Khanna.

Their efforts paid off: SECRET won the Grand Prix award for Best Use of 3D Printing. But even that couldn’t compare with the feeling of “seeing the car drive for the first time.” Now SECRET is ready to improve. “We want to refine the car for next year’s race,” says Khanna. The top DC teams from that competition will advance to an international race in Abu Dhabi, which gives the team something big to strive for.


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