Shell Eco-marathon pushes teams to design cars for the future

5/7/2018 Stefanie Anderson, MechSE Communications

Written by Stefanie Anderson, MechSE Communications

Electric Vehicle Concept team.
Electric Vehicle Concept team.
Two of the university’s car teams, Illini Eco Supermileage and Electric Vehicle Concept, recently participated in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition, held April 19-22 in Sonoma, California.

The Shell Eco-marathon tasks teams with designing and building high-efficiency vehicles. The competition has two classes, Prototype and UrbanConcept. Each class is divided by fuel source—internal combustion, battery electric, or hydrogen fuel cell. While both classes share the same goal of maximizing efficiency, the UrbanConcept class puts a greater emphasis on driver comfort.

The competition consists of a technical inspection to check rule compliance and ensure the safety of the driver. Once a team passes inspection, they are free to attempt the specified number of laps at a given speed using the equivalent of one liter of fuel. Teams can make as many attempts as they wish during the event. If the vehicle completes a run, organizers then calculate their efficiency. The highest efficiency is the team’s final score.

This year both teams faced many challenges. EV Concept switched fuel divisions, from a hydrogen fuel cell to an electric battery, and built a new carbon fiber monocoque chassis for the first time in several years. Illini Eco Supermileage designed and built their first new car in more than four years.

EV Concept participated in the UrbanConcept class. The team managed to pass technical inspection, but did not complete a run. Of the seven electric teams competing, only one completed a run.

Eco Illini Supermileage team.
Eco Illini Supermileage team.
Dante Nava, driver for the EV Concept team and upcoming team president, is already looking forward to next year. “We intend to improve our designs for manufacturability as well as our ability to pass down information to future team leaders. With the same persistence and determination our team embodied this year, we are expecting to have a fun and eventful year,” he said.

Illini Eco Supermileage participated in the Prototype class with an internal combustion car. After several unsuccessful attempts due to electrical and engine issues, they completed two runs. Despite a leak in the fuel line, the car was given a rating of 614 mpg, placing them in 12th place among the 36 teams competing in the internal combustion category.

Although the team did not do as well as they have in the past, Eco Supermileage team president Joseph Grigus said he is proud of what the team accomplished. “We undertook a massive project for one year and were able to see it through. I have high hopes for this team’s future and I hope that next year this car will be a top competitor.”

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This story was published May 7, 2018.