Brazilian Eco-marathon Entry Shows Off Developing Nation Skills

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article related to the Eco-marathon courtesy of  National Geographic Society. Author credit goes to Renan Temp of Unioeste.

The Grupo Cataratas de Eficiencia Energetica (GCEE) was created in 2009 by second-year students of electrical engineering and mechanical engineering at Unioeste (Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Parana) in Brazil.

Last year in a national competition, among other achievements, the team was champion in the ethanol category, achieving 736 kilometers per liter (1,731 miles per gallon). With that, the team got motivated in December last year to compete in the 2012 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas.

image via NGS/Grupo Cataratas de Eficiencia Energetica

We faced many challenges — especially financially, as the competition is approximately 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) away from our city, Foz do Iguassu. Aside from funding, we had to race against time to complete bureaucratic procedures for sending the car and to getting visas for all the staff. Meanwhile, all of us worked at least 14 hours per day on the prototype, which required a far superior level of quality and performance.

The energy company Itaipu Binacional offered us help to send the car, but we had to deliver it no later than February 28 for the vehicle to arrive on time in Houston. Also, the technical documentation required was more demanding than it had been before. In order to meet the deadlines, the team worked through the year-end holidays, even though majority were from out of town. We know that the realization of a dream like this requires dedication, besides teamwork and foreign aid.

Our expectation is to pass technical inspection, represent Brazil, Foz do Iguassu and Unioeste well, and maybe get a place among the best in our category, which is ethanol. But we know that our participation alone is already a great victory.

After this competition, we want to increase the scope of our project, submitting gasoline and electric vehicles in 2013 with the same quality level as the other competitors.

We believe that a survey or contest of this kind only is practical if its development can be applied in society. Thus there is no way to separate innovation in this competition, since performance with sustainability is a serious problem to be solved. This competition prepares future engineers to develop mobility solutions for the near future.

Mobility is what makes almost everything possible, so it must be practical, simple and with little negative impact. Investing in energy efficiency is an investment in humanity.

The Great Energy Challenge is an important three-year National Geographic initiative designed to help all of us better understand the breadth and depth of our current energy situation. National Geographic has assembled some of the world’s foremost researchers and scientists to help tackle the challenge. Led by Thomas Lovejoy, a National Geographic conservation fellow and renowned biologist, the team of advisers will work together to identify and provide support for projects focused on innovative energy solutions.