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Students feel the heat of extreme car design

In the sweltering Brazilian sun, 20-year old Rodrigo Magri is resisting the call of the nearby beach to help tighten bolts on a very unusual car. The pressure is on, with only weeks to go until his team must ship the car to Houston, USA, for Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013.

A former basketball player, he knows how to create team spirit. Under his rules, no-one goes home until the last person has finished working.

“Last night we were here ‘till 5am,” he says. “We only paused to grab a burger!”

The Universidade Federal de Santa Caterina team from Florianópolis will be entering their streamlined vehicle – which for now resembles a wire cage on wheels – into the prototype category, where teams compete for ultimate energy efficiency.

Lengthy ambitions

Last year they achieved the equivalent of 412 kilometres on a single litre of fuel (990 miles per gallon), enough to drive from São Paulo to Rio de Janerio and back. Determined this time to squeeze out 1,000 kilometres, the team has shaved weight off the car, for example by using a small patch of thin aluminium beneath the driver’s feet instead of large, thick cardboard flooring.

In other improvements, computer modelling has helped hone a more streamlined design for the fibre-glass body, while a new tyre system will boost energy efficiency.

“We have gained practical skills that we are putting to good use,” says Brener Martins, co-team leader, who is passionate about energy efficiency.

In addition to their work on the Eco-marathon prototype, he and Rodrigo have also built a slick, black electric two-seater, part-car part-bike, which by next year could be ready to offer Florianópolis commuters an efficient way to cross the city.

In the meantime, their attention is on the competition. Last year they only managed to gather funds for their flight at the last minute, resulting in a 60-hour journey. This time they have their tickets – they just need to finish the car…

Team facts

Team facts

Team name: e3 - USFC team
Average age: 21
Car name: Blue macaw
Class: Prototype
Fuel: Petrol (gasoline)
Unique car features: 100% homemade using technology from São Bento, Brazil.
Years in the competition 2
Record to beat: 412 km/l (969 mpg)

Who's on the team?

Rodrigo Fendrich Magri

Rodrigo Fendrich Magri

20 year-old Rodrigo Fendrich Magri is the team leader known affectionately as “the big boss”. A mechanical engineering student, Rodrigo is also passionate about his family and sport. As the leader he expects 100% from everyone– and generates strong team spirit to achieve it. For him, Shell Eco-marathon is the most important competition in the world.

Brener Pereira Martins

Brener Pereira Martins

Brener Pereira Martins, co-team leader, is passionate about energy-efficient technologies. This 21-years old describes himself as stubborn – and he never gives up on a challenge. Brener joined the team to put his theoretical knowledge of physics into practice. Known as “the money maker”, his fundraising skills have helped secure plane tickets to Houston.

Henrique Simas

Henrique Simas

Henrique Simas, a professor of mechanical engineering, provides invaluable experience as the team advisor. Passionate about robotics, Henrique is no quitter and sees his main strength as endeavouring to get things done. He revels in the challenge Shell Eco-marathon brings.

Christina Azeredo Coutinho

Christina Azeredo Coutinho

One of only two females on the team, Christina Azeredo Coutinho enjoys working with boys: she says “they stay focused on the task in hand”. Her nickname is “Princess” but she is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. Her football team is Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense and she loves music, from the Spice Girls to Los Hermanos. One of her strengths as the team’s driver is her light weight.

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