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Penn State vehicle loses weight to gain efficiency

One of Penn State’s vehicles competing in Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2012 will roll to the start line this year with the same body as last year, but weighing about 140 pounds (64 kg) less.
Students from Penn State prepare their car for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2012 on Frida

Students from Penn State prepare their car for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2012 on Friday, March 30 in downtown Houston.

Penn State Senior Erik Denlinger says his team cleaned out the “guts” of their vehicle, getting rid of the diesel engine and associated components. “We decided to power our vehicle with a battery this year to make it weigh less and achieve greater fuel efficiency.

It used to weigh about 380 pounds (172 kg) and it’s now 240 pounds (108 kg),” says Denlinger. The vehicle is competing this year in the Battery Electric category, which is one of seven fuel or energy-type categories. There are only four other vehicles in the Battery Electric category.   

Ready, set, design!

Erik and his team are redesigning their vehicle for a senior mechanical engineering design class. They inherited the frame and body from the students in last semester’s class. Two months ago, they began the enormous task of prepping the vehicle to run on a battery.

“We had to change out the braking system, drive train, electrical system and battery management system,” he says. “And we had to do all of these modifications on $1,000 budget.”

Although Erik and his team are working hard to win the grand prize in their category, their course grade doesn’t depend on how well their vehicle performs this weekend out on the streets of downtown Houston.