Stevens Competes at Shell Eco-Marathon Car Design Competition

International competition challenges students to build ultra-fuel-efficient vehicle prototype

4/24/2013

A Mechanical Engineering Senior Design team placed 12th in the “Prototype, Battery Electric” category of the 2012 Shell Eco Marathon America, which challenges teams from high schools and colleges from North and South America to design, build and test energy efficient vehicles. From March 28 to April 1 at Shell's headquarters in Houston, Texas, Alexander Dan, Teegan Kelly, Corey Linden, Emal Rustemi, Jeffrey Wills, Matthew Wolski, Andriy Yanishevskiy, Andrew Sales, and Ruoyi Li put their car through rigorous testing in the Battery Electric portion of the competition which focuses on aerodynamics and lightweight design for extreme efficiency. Their best result was 134 kilometers per kilowatt-hour (km/kWh), roughly equivalent to 2,800 miles per gallon (mpg). The car will be on display at the Stevens Innovation Expo 2013.

“This international competition encourages young engineers to innovate in the crucial research areas of fuel-efficiency and alternative energy, and the strong performance of our team demonstrates the talent and dedication of these graduating seniors,” says Mechanical Engineering Industry Professor Jan Nazalewicz, who advised the group during the project.  

Several members noted that the contest’s lack of design limitations was one of the most appealing features of the project. “Once the team was formed, we brought them immediately up to speed and put them into the thick of the project in order to maximize time for design innovation,” says Professor Nazalewicz.  According to Alexander Dan, “We spoke with last year’s team and we learned that the car was heavier and used an engine with more power than was necessary for the application. This year, even though we used a heavier material, we reduced the weight through a minimal design and attempted to calculate more accurately how much power we needed.” Acccording to Emal Rustemi, “Last year’s car had a bamboo body, and the body this year, a nylon polyurethane flexible composite with polycarbonate windows, was our car’s distinguishing feature. As a team we deliberately focused on making the lightest car possible.”

They quickly learned the importance of frequent and clear communication between members. According to Jeff Wills, “You need highly coordinated team communication to make a large group project like this work. You have to sit down together, do what’s best for the team and just make it work.” Team members agreed that the experience was an important preparation for the workplace, where it is possible to have colleagues with different or competing priorities working together. Emal Rustemi adds, “One of the best things about Senior Design is that it was not like any previous projects due to the degree of independence it required. It was almost like we were in a small company, with various roles that all required initiative and a high level of professionalism.”

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas is a unique competition that brings together more than 100 teams and thousands of students from across the Americas to battle for ultra-energy efficiency. On the streets of Downtown Houston from April 5 – 7, 2013 the event also included the Shell Energy Lab, with attractions around innovation and the future of energy.

The team will exhibit their prototype at the Stevens Innovation Expo on April 24th from 1-4 PM alongside hundreds of other innovative technologies, products, services and businesses. For more information, visit www.stevens.edu/expo.