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Exclusive: Shell Eco-marathon: Day 2, students get creative under pressure

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shell eco marathon 2013 americas

Watching the Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 is, to be honest, kind of boring. Yes, the vehicles are all interesting and unusual, but they don’t go very fast, you only see them on the track for a brief moment (there’s no live video feed) and the ones competing against each other aren’t even racing at the same time. But this is an efficiency challenge, after all, and one where students can learn by doing. Much of the action, after all, is off-side. It’s the struggle of the 120 different high school and college teams to design their vehicles, to build them and – in the case of University of Alaska – take them apart and check them in their luggage. Multiply that by 140 vehicles and it becomes pretty clear pretty quick that there are roughly a million stories at the Eco-marathon, on the track and off.

It becomes pretty clear pretty quick that there are roughly a million stories at the Eco-marathon, on the track and off.

Those stories continued today. As the first vehicles made the early competition laps, many of the vehicles in the paddock were in various states of untogetherness. As in, they were still being tinkered with, adapted and reconfigured. By the end of the day, it became clear that some of them simply would not be able to pass the safety inspection.

Even if a vehicle makes it onto the track, there is no guarantee of success. One of the best-looking vehicles here, an all-electric DeLorean-style all-electric from St. Paul’s School, a high school in Covington, LA, made an impression during the opening ceremonies. The team figured you don’t have to look uncool to have a fuel-efficient car, and even added blue neon accent lights on the bottom. But, after being called to the starting line today, the EV didn’t even make it around the track once. St. Paul’s also brought an “taxi,” in part to make the point that you can reduce fuel use by 50 percent by adding a person. You can’t fail with that logic.

From the sidelines, we listened in as team members from Louisiana Tech University coached their driver through his ten laps via cell phone, just one group of many we saw trying to get their partners behind the wheel to improve their driving. Coast more on this lap, they said. Don’t worry about your speed, you’re fine there, they said, discussing amongst themselves how best to tackle each lap. At least one car in the competition was hooked up for wireless communication, transmitting important data to the team in the paddock. In the on-track competition, drivers need to go around the course ten times, making three 30-second stops during the run. They’ll be judged on how little energy they use and need to finish in a maximum time of 24:45. As we’ll see, it can be a hot 25 minutes.

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Shell Eco-marathon: Day 2, students get creative under pressure originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 06 Apr 2013 23:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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