As the automotive industry undergoes a profound shift to a customised, digital, driving experience for consumers, students at the University of Toronto have demonstrated that the technology exists to dramatically improve energy efficiency of personal transportation. A small team of students have built a car that can go around the world using only 27.5L of fuel. This falls only 2.8L per 100km short of the North American record. The team, appropriately named “Supermileage Team 2” took first place at the Shell Eco-Marathon this year. Their custom-built car ranks as one of the most energy-efficient vehicle in the Americas.
Weighing in at a mere 34kg, with a custom-made 45cc 1.5hp engine, the Toronto-made car recently achieved 3,421 miles/gallon during competition in Detroit. Further efficient design features include specialised tires to minimise rolling resistance, and an aerodynamic carbon fibre monocoque chassis. Though these technical factors are central to this car’s first prize finish, it is the team’s fully integrated design process and collaborative approach that secured their win. In the competition, the car was only running for 10% of the time on average, coasting in between these periods. This team exemplifies the importance of open collaboration and an intentional design process – a theme that carries through our work at the MaRS Discovery District.
Describing their experience on track day, team leader Mengqi Wang emphasized that their win is attributable to a blend of innovative engineering and a dynamic driving strategy. The driver, Kristine Confalone and the team worked together to develop a plan that allowed them to reduce the amount of time they were running the engine during the race. In the penultimate and final runs of the race, the car’s efficiency went from 2800 to 3400mpg based on driving strategy alone. Mayukh Chakraborty, driving strategist and lead mechanical designer said, “the car might be amazing, but it needs to be driven the way it should be driven.” It is clear that this execution was a team effort.
The team observed that efficient cars of the future will require adaptive driving- adjusting speed to road conditions in order to increase efficiency. Ideally, cars will be autonomous and in tune with one another to relieve inefficiencies caused by traffic jams and erratic speeds. A recent study by IBM notes that “a new [automotive] industry identity is emerging—one that is more open, inclusive, and without borders.” These students demonstrate that transformation in the auto industry provides an opportunity for adaptive driving and increased efficiency that is unattainable with humans at the wheel. Though IBM forecasts that self-driving cars will not be as prominent as expected by 2025, digitization of the industry holds vast potential for energy efficiency.
The University of Toronto team will continue developing new cars and growing as engineers ready to make their contribution to the automotive industry. With an emphasis on learning and teambuilding, we can expect a bright future for vehicle design and efficiency. This team’s goal is to break a world record, and they’re not far off!
For full competition results, visit shell.com
Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient vehicles. With annual events first in the Americas, then Europe and Asia, the winners are the teams that go the furthest using the least amount of energy. The events spark debate about the future of mobility and inspire young engineers to push the boundaries of fuel efficiency.