CU Engineering Students Build, Test High-Mileage Concept Car

April 7, 2009

Four University of Colorado at Boulder engineering students are gearing up for a unique competition in California April 15-18.

That's when they'll put their high-mileage concept car on the line against 56 other teams from around the globe to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon. The Eco-Marathon, held at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., challenges high school and college students from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil and India to design, build and drive a high-mileage concept car the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

The CU-Boulder team will test their car on April 11 in preparation for the event. The students' goal is to squeeze more than 1,000 miles per gallon from the streamlined vehicle, which weighs only 120 pounds.

The car has a standard fuel engine but is able to achieve higher fuel economy due to engine modifications, its low weight and aerodynamic design. It is made from steel, aluminum and lightweight composite materials.

"This year we are focusing mainly on our driving patterns to get the best mileage from our car," said T.J. Sharp, CU-Boulder engineering student and one of four Eco-Marathon team members. "We are using a very efficient method called the 'boost and coast method' where you boost the vehicle up to the most efficient rate of speed and then turn the engine off and coast and rely solely on the aerodynamics and rolling resistance of the car to coast as long as you can. When we get to a minimum speed, we'll restart the engine and repeat the cycle."

The project is an undertaking of students in the mechanical engineering senior design course, which gives students hands-on experience with real-world projects.

To learn more about the CU-Boulder Eco-Marathon team and its car view the video at www.colorado.edu/news.

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