In 2014, the semi carrying University of British Columbia’s (UBC) two eco-vehicles home from Shell Eco-marathon in Houston had an accident. The roll-over not only destroyed both vehicles, it also ruined the majority of the students’ valuable work equipment. Because each vehicle is the product of continual design iterations, recycled parts and repurposed material, the accident meant that the students, known as the UBC Supermileage Team, had essentially lost years of hard work.

Instead of allowing this setback to cripple the team, they decided to use it as an opportunity for fresh ideas and went back to the drawing board.

"With financial support from our sponsors and community donations, we quickly worked to restock our building materials and began our design process before the school year even started," says Nancy Chu, Public Relations and Engine Lead of the UBC Supermileage Team." Building both cars from the ground up offered a great chance for learning and allowed a new generation of UBC Supermileagers to understand the workings of the car from the inside out."

The UBC team attributes much of their comeback success to community support. Canadian teams participating in the Eco-marathon can earn additional financial support through a variety of mini-challenges. One of those mini-challenges includes hosting a community event to showcase the Eco-marathon competition and their vehicle.

Finding the humour in it…"A good-humoured take on the accident was to see it as an involuntary run at destructive testing - one which afforded us a glimpse at the cars’ structural performance. From the wreckage, we could identify parts of the vehicle which survived and may have been over-designed as well as weaker parts that could use some reinforcement. Since the accident, all hands have been on deck to build two cars in time for the 2015 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Our progress is the result of positive community support, a strong, motivated team and admittedly, a lot of late nights."

Nancy Chu

The innovative members of the UBC team decided to make their Unveiling Event a community update. This on-campus initiative showcased the hard work the team invested in re-building their car.

"The event provides us with a platform to not only proudly share our cars, but to also educate visitors on the rising global urge to achieve energy sustainability through innovation," says Chu. "Hopefully the event will make some individuals become more aware of the growing pertinence of efficient energy use. I want the work we do to open a discussion on energy sustainability. I want it to spur questions like 'what can we do to help use energy more efficiently?’ or ‘how can I change my day-to-day habits to improve my carbon footprint?'"

Chu and her team were thrilled to share Supermileage’s experience and their car with members of the UBC community. “More than anything, our event shows people that it is possible to make a difference and our competition mileage stats are quantitative evidence to drive that point home,” she adds. "By giving people a tangible look at the technologies that are being developed right in their backyard, we can hopefully inspire them to take action as well by proving that it’s not far out of reach."

Now, more than ever, Supermileage and their community are excited to showcase their hard work as the team will race for the first time at the new Shell Eco-marathon Americas destination - the Motor City - Detroit, Michigan.

Track Supermileage’s road to this year’s race by following their Facebook and YouTube team.

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