The eco-vehicle has an aerodynamic shape and no frame for optimum efficiency. Photo: Kevin Bates.
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Students set to compete internationally in Shell-Eco Marathon in April

On March 29, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering hosted its third annual Design Day at SITE, where students showcased their passion projects to faculty members, family and friends, and field professionals. The event was open to the public, and had over 100 submissions ranging from interactive art to environmental robots.

One of these projects, an eco-vehicle, took centre stage, with a team of up to 25 students who worked on the project. Kevin Gravel, a fifth-year mechanical engineering and computer science student at the U of O, explained that the Supermileage team had eight months to build the car from scratch.

The team will also be competing in the international Eco-Shell Marathon, which will be held in California this year from April 18 to 22 against 130 teams from high schools and universities in Central, North, and South America for a prize of $3,000 US.

While the team has competed in the Prototype category in the Shell-Eco Marathon in the past, Gravel said this is their first year in the Urban Concept category, which has a different set of specifications.

“The car has to have four wheels, basically like a small car that you would see on the road today. Our car, what’s unique is that it’s a one-wheel drive car, so only one of the two-wheels in the back is powered by the engine.”


The eco-vehicle’s engine was taken from a Honda, with two horsepower, and a maximum speed of 40 kilometers an hour.

Dominic Monette, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the U of O and another member of the team said that the new category is a good fit for the group.

“We thought this would be more relevant to mechanical engineering in the sense that we’re graduating soon, the automotive industry interests us, and if we can do a project that relates to a real car, that would be a positive for us,” he said.

“It’s a really friendly competition where everyone helps each other, because we’re in it to have fun, we’re in it to promote sustainability.”

Monnette also discussed the team’s decision to unveil the car on Design Day, explaining that the team wanted to show people what could be accomplished in such a short time, in a sustainable way.

“(We) hope that we can influence people or encourage them to take steps in more eco-friendly in their day to day lives because it’s a pretty paramount topic in today’s society,” he said. “It’s really to emulate the future of fuel efficient cars.”

According to Gravel, what makes it eco-friendly lies in its structure. The car has an ultralight body with a carbon fiber monocoque, eliminating the need for a frame.

Monnette mentioned that its aerodynamic shape also contributes to its environmentally friendly nature as it provides less wind resistance, further explaining that the car has an inline transmission, and that their motor is fitted with a fuel injection system, allowing them to control how much fuel goes in, and reducing waste.

For both students, the push to get involved with the Supermileage team came from wanting to apply their skills in a practical way, with hands on experience. Monnette encourages other interested students to join the team.

“If you want to apply what you learn in class, the engineering teams at the university is a really good way to get involved. If ever you’re interested, head out, try to find a team. There are a lot of opportunities.”

To learn more about the University of Ottawa’s Supermileage team, you can follow them on Facebook.