Cal Poly Eco-marathon Entry Combines Skills For Super Mileage

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

Bringing together students majoring in mechanical, material, and aerospace engineering, as well as computer science, the Cal Poly Supermileage Vehicle Team combines all these disciplines to produce the most efficient vehicles possible.

Last year, we took home the Technical Innovation Award at Shell Eco-marathon Americas for the onboard electronics and custom data acquisition and monitoring system of Capax, our “urban concept car.” (See Cal Poly’s 2011 Eco-marathon team at the competition.)

image via NGS/Cal Poly

In addition to modifying Capax to compete again in the category for street-legal cars, we also hope to show a new prototype car, Laminaat Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2012 at the end of this month in Houston.

Lamina combines sleek aerodynamic shapes with ergonomic design in order to minimize weight. Using the Latin word for “thin layer,” root of the word “laminate,” Lamina illustrates her meaning with bladelike lines and sharp styling. We aimed to create a modular engine and drive train in a single unit that can be taken out for tuning. This increases the safety of the car, while minimizing its size. Weighing in at about 70 pounds, Lamina utilizes a combined fairing and chassis, or monocoque, design. This is a technique in which the external skin of the vehicle, instead of an internal frame, supports the structural load.

We have worked in close collaboration with our professors at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and with industry leaders. Through our work with them, our knowledge of designing, manufacturing, and competing has broadened dramatically.

Combining the efforts of newcomers onto the team with veteran seniors, we hope to improve upon the entire manufacturing process from design to race. Starting with conceptual design and aero testing to final mold and car production, we hope to surpass the 3,000 mile-per-gallon (1,275-kilometers-per-liter) mark! At Cal Poly, we have the opportunity to be a part of a team that encourages learning and collaboration to make something unique.

At Cal Poly we believe in the motto, “Learn by doing,” and following just that principle, students involved gain knowledge through hands-on experience. The design of each vehicle begins with a 3-D CAD (computer-aided design) model using SolidWorks software.  Then come extensive design reviews. Finally, the whole project ends with the complete manufacturing of the vehicles done entirely on the Cal Poly campus by students.

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.