How far on a litre of fuel? uOttawa students refine eco-car ahead of ‘marathon’

uOttawa eco-car
(Photo by Rebecca Atkinson)

After a tough run last year, a team of uOttawa students is determined to redeem itself at a test of engineering savvy later this month in California.

The engineering students recently displayed their eco-vehicle for this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Americas at the university’s annual Design Day.

The group will set out for Sonoma, Calif., later this month for the event, which runs from April 19-22. Teams of students from North and South America will compete to determine which vehicles they’ve designed and built can travel the farthest on a single litre of fuel. More than 1,000 students are expected to take part.

Last year, the University of Ottawa team’s vehicle – which competed in the “Prototype” class for futuristic, streamlined vehicles – fell apart after getting less than halfway down the track.

This year, the team has entered the “UrbanConcept” competition for “roadworthy” energy-efficient vehicles aimed at meeting real-life driver requirements. The University of Ottawa students have two goals: to pass the initial tech evaluation phase and complete the run.

“I’m going to be happy if we have a good run, even if it’s 50 miles per gallon,” said Nicholas Fekete, the team’s manager. “Then next year, we optimize.”

The urban concept vehicle has been an eight-month project, with some members putting in 30 hours a week with many late nights. At the time of the unveiling, the team had yet to test the vehicle and all its parts, but the members said their preparations are further ahead than they were at this time last year.

“There are so many things that can go wrong and so many that can go right,” said Fekete. “We’ll see when we get there. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Last year’s winner was a team from Laval University in Quebec City. Its prototype gasoline-powered vehicle achieved a fuel efficiency of 2,731.1 miles per gallon.