Posted April 13th, 2018 by Amanda Hacio

Racers, start your (fuel efficient) engines…

  • Supermileage Team co-captains Melissa Fung (Year 3 MechE + PEY, at far left) and Callum Bartlett (Year 3 MechE, far right) and their teammates examine the interior of their hyper-efficient prototype vehicle, called Shadow. The team is hopeful that their vehicle improvements will earn them a spot at the podium at this year’s Shell Eco-Marathon Americas race. (Credit: Roberta Baker).

    Supermileage Team co-captains Melissa Fung (Year 3 MechE + PEY, at far left) and Callum Bartlett (Year 3 MechE, far right) and their teammates examine the interior of their hyper-efficient prototype vehicle, called Shadow. The team is hopeful that their vehicle improvements will earn them a spot at the podium at this year’s Shell Eco-Marathon Americas race. (Credit: Roberta Baker)

On April 4, the U of T Supermileage Team unveiled its newest vehicle, a sleek black bullet-shaped prototype called Shadow. Now in its fifth year, the U of T Engineering student team designs, fabricates, builds and races hyper-fuel-efficient vehicles.

From April 18 to 23, the team will be competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas (SEMA) against more than 90 teams from North, Central and South America in Sonoma, Calif., at the NASCAR-grade Sonoma Raceway.

The Shell Eco-Marathon event challenges engineering students to think small when it comes to the amount of energy required to power a vehicle. Over several days, contestants will drive a set number of laps around the race track. At the end of the competition, organizers calculate the distance traveled and measure the amount of fuel consumed by each vehicle. The team with the most energy-efficient vehicle in each category wins.

Over the past year, the Supermileage Team has been hard at work enhancing this year’s design with the goal of reclaiming their 2015 first-place title in the gasoline prototype internal combustion category.

Co-captain Melissa Fung (MechE Year 3 + PEY) is optimistic that the U of T team will come out on top, but they’re keeping a close eye on their long-time rival Université Laval, which took the title for the past two years.

“Laval is always our toughest competitor but I think we have a really good chance of placing first this year because of the upgrades we made to the vehicle,” says Fung.

The ultra-efficient 45 cc rewired-engine, pictured here, is one of many upgrades the U of T Engineering student team made to their new vehicle. (Photo: Roberta Baker).

The ultra-efficient 45 cc rewired-engine, pictured here, is one of many upgrades the U of T Engineering student team made to their new vehicle. (Photo: Roberta Baker)

The vehicle runs on a 30-millillitre engine with a maximum recorded efficiency of 5,505 kilometres per litre (3,421 miles per gallon). That means Shadow could drive the 541 kilometres from Montreal to Toronto on about 25 tablespoons of fuel — less than the amount in a typical 500-millilitre bottle of water. To improve their performance in Sonoma, the team has made a number of changes from previous years.

“Last year at the competition we had some difficulties with our rear drive train, so we completely redesigned it to withstand higher torques and we’re hoping that will give us some efficiency improvements,” says Supermileage Team co-captain Callum Bartlett (MechE Year 3). “We have also been working on our engine to make it more efficient and that included rewiring the whole system, which was a big project for us this year.” Other improvements to the vehicle include clearer windshields and side windows to enhance driver visibility.

One challenge the team faced in preparing for the competition was the limited amount of space in their current work room. This fall, Supermileage will be one of seven U of T Engineering student clubs and teams moving into the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Myhal Centre). The team will have a dedicated garage space and direct access to prototyping tools and equipment and additional storage.

“[The Myhal Centre] will give us more space for fabrication, design work and theoretical modeling,” says Bartlett. “This will be important to the future success of the team because it will enable us to take our prototypes to the next level.”

Follow the team’s journey at SEMA

Learn more about the Myhal Centre’s innovative student spaces