While most of the students at St. Paul’s School were enjoying their Easter Break, the Eco-Car Club, affectionately dubbed Wolves on Wheels, were hard at work in Houston, Texas, where they participated in the Shell Eco-Marathon, competing in the categories for battery electric and bio-diesel.
The Wolves left for Houston on April 4, competing until April 7, led by moderators John Carambat and Mark Richards.
“The Shell Eco-Marathon began in 1939 as a friendly wager between two Shell employees over who could drive the farthest on the same amount of fuel,” said Carambat. “It has now expanded to be an international competition between students to see who can go the farthest on the least amount of fuel.”
Carambat explained that fuel types now include battery-electric, hydrogen, diesel, gasoline, ethanol and gas-to-liquid, with two categories of cars in competition: “Prototype” and “Urban concept.”
“Prototype is extremely light-weight, usually three-wheeled and delicate as a butterfly. Urban Concept are built to be more street-legal and must be under 450 pounds, have headlights, turn-signals, brake and running lights, windshield wipers, etc.,” said Carambat.
The Wolves on Wheels built two Urban Concept vehicles for this year’s competition and retrofitted an all-electric Prototype from last year.
“We spent four days in Houston getting our cars qualified to make the six-mile, 10-lap run,” Carambat added, “tweaking them for better performance and fixing anything that broke in the paddock area. Most of the guys camped out on the third floor of the convention center. On Saturday and Sunday, after meeting all stringent safety and performance requirements, we were on the track racing.”
The team performed very well at the convention this year, winning second place in Biodeisel (called Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) with the Big Yellow Taxi and earning a check for $1,000 and a coveted spot as one of 6 of the 113 cars chosen to be on the stage during the opening ceremony.
“It looked fantastic, and we have a lot of pictures of it on the Shell web site. Our second car was also a beautiful piece of eye-candy — the Delorean from ‘Back to the Future.'” said Carambat. “It had an all-electric 4.6KW motor and lithium ion battery and aluminum body and a blazing set of light effects. Unfortunately, it never made a full 10 laps due to battery problems.”
The Viper III was the Prototype from last year that was retrofitted with a hub motor and 48-volt lithium battery for this year’s competition.
“It ran great and ran in third place out of 25 in a very competitive category against some of the best engineering colleges during most of the tourney. It ended up making a respectable 5th place out of 25 by the time the dust settled. Adam Fink and Quinn Anglada did a great job driving the Taxi, Bobby Bayer handled the tricky Prototype like a champ, and Cain Plaissance and Will Fink drove the Delorean,” said Carambat.
A junior and new member to the club, Grant Grefer says he learned a lot of useful skills and felt he contributed to the team, even being inexperienced. “My first year was great,” he said. “I learned to work with others under stress, as well as how to work metals and electricity. Next year, I hope we can get more involvement from the younger grades and some more sponsor money.”
Carambat notes that the team learned a lot from this year’s competition and is ready to plan for next year. “Our goal was to solve a lot of structural problems this year and we did it well,” said Carambat. “We had to enlarge the cabin, improve steering and brakes and make the frame stronger. We always do it with style, so we went with the movie themes of ‘Back to the Future’ and the taxi from ‘Who framed Roger Rabbit’ to promote our car-pooling strategy. Next year we intend to keep the same body forms and work on making them more efficient, lighter and reducing rolling resistance.”
Though the club has finished work for this year, interested students can talk to Carambat or Richards to join the club for next year. For more photos of the event, visit the Wolves on Wheels Facebook page.
[photos provided by Shell Oil]