A team of final-year UCL Mechanical Engineering students are hoping to make their mark on the cars of the future this weekend, after designing and building an innovative and super-efficient new entry into the 2014 Shell Eco-Marathon – all in under a year.
Over 200 teams from across Europe will compete in the event, held on a street circuit in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 15th – 18th of May. Their aim is simple – complete the race using as little fuel as possible. You might be happy if your car reaches 40 miles per gallon (mpg) – last years’ Eco-Marathon winners achieved over 7000mpg.
For UCL Team Hydrone, the event is a chance to explore the technology that might make its way into everyday motoring in the near future. “It’s no secret that internal combustion isn’t sustainable in the long-term,” said driver and systems designer Adam Turner. “It’s down to our generation of engineers to find an alternative for when the oil does run out.”
The team, (pictured from the left ; Jasmine, Will, Ed, Jack and Adam) have opted for a hydrogen fuel cell to power their car, naming the vehicle ‘Hydrone AB1’, after former UCL Mechanical Engineering academic Dr Alvin Blackie.
Adam said: “There are only five of us on the team, which has forced us to be innovative with the design of the car, and to collaborate on getting the best efficiency from every component.”
The car features a lightweight construction – under 100kg – and an intelligent control system that actively controls the car’s powertrain to get the highest efficiency. Jasmine Megson said: “We realised that one of the biggest contributors to a car’s efficiency is how you drive it. Our system uses data about the motor and fuel cell, driving conditions and the track itself to eliminate the driver variable – the car is always operating at its most efficient.”
Despite starting from scratch last autumn, the team are confident of a good result in Rotterdam. Team leader Will Brereton said; “We’re a tiny team and it hasn’t been easy to get everything done. We’ve been ambitious from the start and we really think that it’s about to pay off – the project has shown us what’s possible in the future of transport and we think that the AB1 is a good showcase for that. We’re going to Holland with a competitive entry and we’re proud to be representing UCL and London. Just getting to the race is a huge achievement – and we’d love to top it off with a good finish.”
Even before setting foot in the Netherlands, the UCL team, pictured with broadcaster Carol Vorderman, have attracted attention, featuring in Yahoo Cars and the Observer’s Tech Monthly last weekend.