MSOE’s Supermileage Vehicle team is going the distance. Team Carbonair took its electric and gasoline-powered vehicles on the road this spring and celebrated some major achievements, most recently ranking among the top five at the 39th annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Supermileage Vehicle competition. The team set a new fuel economy record of 1,112 mpg for MSOE with its gasoline-powered vehicle and placed fourth out of 21 in the contest, which took place at the Eaton Vehicle Group Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan.
“It was incredibly rewarding,” said Joshua Boyce, junior mechanical engineering major and project manager of Team Carbonair. “There are numerous former team members who invested every spare moment they had to help use bring MSOE’s Supermileage club to where it is now. Those efforts coupled with ours this year helped us to hit a major milestone.”
Earlier this spring, the Supermileage team also celebrated a milestone at the 2018 Shell Eco-Marathon competition in Sonoma, California, where its electric prototype vehicle achieved fuel economy of 171km/kWh, or the equivalent of 3,580 miles per gallon. Team Carbonair placed ninth out of 24 teams in that contest.
SAE Supermileage is an engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate students. The program provides participants with the opportunity to enhance their engineering design and project management skills by applying learned classroom theories in a competition. The engineering design goal for SAE Supermileage is to develop and construct a single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle that complies with the competition rules.
Team Carbonair is composed of 21 students—freshman through junior level—representing all majors. The team is advised by Dr. Christopher Damm, professor and director of the Mechanical Engineering program. “It’s a fairly small team to be designing and building two vehicles,” Boyce said. “But this meant everyone had a pivotal role to play in the team’s success. I’m proud of the way each member of the team stepped up and took ownership of the project.”
Goals for each Team Carbonair car varied. For the electric prototype, the team was focused on implementing a brushless motor, with an eye toward using a hub motor and a new battery and battery management system in the future. For the gasoline prototype, it was more about engine turning and maneuvering on the competition track.
“We used a ‘burn coast’ driving strategy in which we kill the engine once the vehicle gets up to speed then coast for as long as possible to maximize fuel efficiency,” Boyce said. “We felt we really perfected that strategy this year.”
Next year, the team has set its sights on building a battery-electric Urban Concept vehicle. “It’s much closer to a street-legal, fully functional vehicle than the prototype vehicles our team has previously built,” Boyce said. “We also plan to refine the gasoline vehicle further in the hopes of breaking 1,500 mpg.”
Essential to industrial enterprise, mechanical engineering is versatile and continuously evolving. Mechanical engineers use their knowledge of design, energy and materials to ensure that objects function more efficiently to conserve resources.