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Rose-Hulman Students’ Efficient Vehicle Going for 1,800 mpg at Shell Eco-Marathon Competition

March 24, 2010

Achieving 1,800 miles per gallon is the goal of fuel efficient vehicles that Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students will compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas taking place this weekend, March 26-28, in Houston's Discovery Green Park.

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Passing Inspection: Members of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Efficient Vehicles Team make last-minute adjustments to one of the college's fuel-efficient cars competing in this weekend's Shell Eco-marathon Americas event in Houston. Both of the team's vehicles successfully passed technical inspections on Thursday and started road testing on Friday.

This annual educational project inspires engineering students to develop new approaches to sustainable mobility, and gives young people interested in technology, energy and transportation a unique, hands-on opportunity to showcase their innovations by designing, building and driving the most energy-efficient vehicle.
 
Rose-Hulman is one of the star-studded teams in the competition, achieving 1,800 mpg on about 4½ teaspoons of gasoline! That was good enough to place fourth last year and the team finished second in the 2007 competition. The college has also competed in the Shell Eco-marathon United Kingdom and has won the Society of Automotive Engineers' Supermileage competition, a similar test for North American collegiate efficient vehicles.
 
"We like running at the head of the pack and that should be possible if we can keep improving and becoming more fuel efficient," says Team Leader Blaine Castongia, a sophomore mechanical engineering major. "We're ready to give it our best shot."
 
Really, Rose-Hulman's Efficient Vehicles Team will have two shots at winning with two identical sleek, lightweight and aerodynamic three-wheeled vehicles powered by a carbureted Honda GX 25 engine with a sprag clutch. 
 
"We're going to have twice as much data from our test sessions, allowing us to tweak the cars to find the most efficient vehicle performance," stated James Mayfield, an electrical engineering graduate student and veteran team member. "We should be able to learn from each team and come up with one performance that should do well in the competition. Hopefully, one of our cars will be among the leaders."
 

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Looking For Efficiency: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology driver Bethany Brisco patiently waits for some last-minute adjustments to the college's efficient vehicle that achieved 1,800 mpg and placed fourth in last year's Shell Eco-marathon competition.

Later, Mayfield added, "I would be disappointed if we didn't achieve 1,800 mpg." He pointed out that Rose-Hulman had a team all-time best 1,972.9 mpg performance during the 2007 Shell Eco-marathon United Kingdom competition.
 
The vehicles feature an aluminum honeycomb composite chassis that's eight feet and four inches long, 26 inches wide and travels one and one-fourth of an inch off the ground. Female drivers Bethany Brisco and Cheyenne Arrowsling lay flat on their back and steer the car by adjusting independent front wheel mechanisms, while being enclosed in a clear plastic body shell.
 
"Weight is a big part of the competition, so having a smaller, lighter driver is a significant advantage," says Arrowsling, a 5-foot tall junior biomedical engineering major. "The car isn't designed for driver comfort, but it is really fun. We (drivers) know that we have a big role in the team's success. The guys spend all year working on the car. Then, they hand the car over to us to perform on the track."
 
Brisco, another third-year participant, also gives Rose-Hulman an experienced driver.
 
Having two vehicles allows all team members to share in the Eco-marathon Americas experience. Other members are James Allen, Cody Van Buskirk, Matthew Devonish, Zakari Eckert, Kullin Erickson, Jesse Garcia, Paul Himes and Stephen Sakai. The team's faculty advisor is Allen White, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
 
"It helps to get everyone's input," stated Sakai, a senior mechanical engineering major.
"One of our team's strengths is that we have people from several different majors: mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, chemical engineers and biomedical engineers. We have many different perspectives to solve issues that arise."
 

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On The Move: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's efficient vehicle has earned top honors in past Shell Eco-marathon and Society of Automotive Engineers' Supermileage collegiate competitions.

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas winner will be the vehicle that travels the furthest using the least amount of fuel. There are two categories of the competition: Prototype, for futuristic streamlined vehicles where the primary design consideration is reducing drag and maximizing efficiency, and Urban Concept, for conventional four-wheel roadworthy criteria. 
 
Other colleges joining Rose-Hulman in this year's competition will be California Polytechnic State University, Cedarville University, Colorado School of Mines, Dalhousie University (Canada), Ecole de Technolgie Superieure (Canada), Lamar University, Louisiana Tech University, Loyola Marymount University, North Carolina A&T State University, Northern Arizona University, Penn State, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Purdue University, University of Arizona, University of British Columbia (Canada), University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, University of Colorado, University of Houston, University of Illinois, University of Laval (Canada), University of Missouri, University of Ottawa (Canada), University of Texas El Paso, University of Toronto (Canada) and Wright State University.
 
The Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition racing will be March 27-28. Find out more about the event at  www.shell.com/home/content/ecomarathon/americas .