Supermileage vehicle is a standout
A team of BYU mechanical engineering students placed second and brought home the Newcomer of the Year title at their first ever SAE Supermileage Vehicle competition. Their vehicle reached 1,135 miles per gallon.
“This is a great start for BYU’s Supermileage teams,” said Eric Hardester, driver of the supermileage vehicle and a mechanical engineering master’s student from Provo, Utah. “[Future BYU teams] have a great foundation to build on now to make many more improvements and push the limits of engineering and design.”
BYU placed second out of 15 teams and won more than $1,500 in prize money at the 33rd Eaton Corporation Marshall Proving Grounds in Marshall, Mich.
Coached by Jerry Bowman, professor of mechanical engineering, the team was made up of the following members: Robert Condie, Kasey Gillespie, Eric Hardester, Jordan Hymas, Kevin Spencer, Mark Sydenham and Nick Tafuri.
The purpose of the competition was to provide students with the challenge of designing something that involved developing a fuel-efficient and single-person vehicle. This gives students the opportunity to set a world record in fuel economy and raise public awareness of fuel economy.
Not having participated in the competition previously presented several obstacles for the team. With no foundation to build on or ideas to expand, they had to put creativity and design initially aside and focus on constructing a functional model that would guarantee a working vehicle for the competition.
After looking at pictures of models from previous years, inspiration began to flow and the team came up with some ideas that grew a “start from scratch” idea into a workable design by the following three keys: an improved engine, good bearings and driving technique.
“We started with an off-the-shelf lawn mower engine, insulated it to keep it warmer and added fuel injection,” said Hardester. “The next key [was] good bearings. We used some of the best ceramic bearings we could find to eliminate any friction. The biggest key to such high mpg is driving technique. We run the engine for three seconds at a time, turn off and coast as far as we can before turning it back on. That is what makes the biggest difference.”
This prevents the vehicle from wasting energy by running the engine continuously throughout the race.
Now with a better understanding of the competition and a foundation for building a supermileage vehicle, BYU looks forward to being a more experienced and forefront competitor in the years to come.
-Written by Melissa Oldham