The University of Alberta (U of A) sees great value in allowing students to perform real engineering design in the field of sustainable energy technologies. The university views participation in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas as a great way to increase energy awareness within the community of emerging sustainable alternatives in transportation.

How’d they do in the past?

In 2012, the U of A team took second place in Houston, Texas by achieving 16 mi/kwH (equivalent to 600 MPG or 3.9L/100km).

In 2014, the team placed first, going 18.4 mi/kwH with their urban concept car. When all was said and done, they used 1200.36 km/l of hydrogen.

Through participation in the Eco-marathon, students learn how to approach open-ended design tasks and project planning, while integrating research, simulation, design and testing to create a new product. Having participated in the Shell Eco-marathon for a few years now, the U of A EcoCar Team also adds problem solving to their learnings from this hands-on process.

“As a team that’s been around for about five years, we are currently in a critical growth phase. We are in-between teams that are brand new and made up of a tight-knit group of friends, and well-established teams with huge budgets, a long legacy, and a well-known reputation,” begins Balazs Gyenes, Project Manager for the U of A EcoCar Team.

“As a result, we have been working as much on building a great team as on building a great car. Concurrently, we are improving communication, documentation, knowledge transfer, and all the other systems that are critical to keep the team operating.”

Through trial and tribulation, this motivated team says they realized the importance of recruiting, both for their team and for the financial support of their car, and decided to implement a unique recruiting program.

“We held a competitive, team building/training event called Ecolympics that was the first of its kind at our university,” says Gyenes. “We’ve begun to try to build partnerships with large firms and critical suppliers, such as car companies and local machine shops, which will support our team in the future.”

Meet Steve

Affectionately referred to as Steve, the urban concept car is a sleek, 300lb model with a modern look. Full of innovation, this vehicle has been built from the ground up with an in-house designed sensors network and fuel cell controller. In addition, the EcoCar Team’s competitive advantage is aided by the car’s aeroshell, made from organically sourced bio-composites such as hemp, flax, cellulose as well as Kevlar. It is innovation like this that the team hopes will set them apart from their competitors.

This innovative hybrid vehicle is valued at an impressive $50,700, including parts and mechanic hours. It is clear that the EcoCar Team and the U of A consider this a serious investment – an investment that they believe is sure to benefit the team and university’s program.

Although Steve has brought this team some success in the past, the eco-team continues to push energy boundaries and hopes to have a new and improved version, named Alice, for the 2016 Eco-marathon.

“Since mid-2013, we have been slowly working on a brand new vehicle, named Alice, which incorporates all the lessons we’ve learned from our first design, but unfortunately we just won’t be able to finish it in time,” says Gyenes. “We’ve made the difficult decision to delay bringing Alice to the race until next year. Nonetheless, we are trying to transplant as much of our newer electronics into Steve as possible.”

With Steve on track to compete in 2015, and Alice in production for 2016, the U of A EcoCar Team looks forward to racing for the first time at the new Shell Eco-marathon Americas destination – the Motor City - Detroit, Michigan.

Want to track this team’s success? Follow their Facebook and Twitter pages.

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