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Fit for the road
Florian Deutscher thrives on new challenges. First he helped design and build an ultra-efficient car to win an on-track competition. Then he set out to prove it could also be driven on public roads.
As 25-year-old mechanical engineering student Florian Deutscher stands in front of a round-roofed car that tapers to an aerodynamic tail, you might think he owns a Porsche. But unlike most sports cars, the vehicle he and his teammates have built can travel the equivalent of over 2,000 kilometres on a single litre of fuel.
“I want to help design the next generation of vehicles,” he says.
Since the age of 11, when the Rally World Championship came to his hometown of Trier, Florian has been passionate about fast cars. Now he and the rest of team proTRon from Hochschule Trier, Germany, have secured sponsorship from sports car manufacturer Karmann for their entry into Shell Eco-marathon.
Optimising a car either for maximum speed or to go the furthest on the least energy requires similar skills, according to Florian. Both require streamlined designs and fine-tuning engines whether for power or efficiency. “You also have to work around the clock before any such competition,” he says.
The burden on Shell Eco-marathon entrants is already high. Yet last year Florian wanted to achieve even more by showing that his university’s ultra energy-efficient car could also meet stringent road specifications.
Piling on the pounds
Road cars must have a strong undercarriage to support passengers and include safety features such as windscreen wipers, a handbrake and lights. But students preparing for the competition usually strip their vehicle bare: the lighter it is, the less fuel it uses. Florian had to find a balance.
Team proTRon’s car, named AERIS, has a carbon-fibre body to keep it light. But its extra features pushed the car to around 150kg (around 330 lbs), twice as much as other entries. Still, in 2012, three months after being licensed for the road, it achieved the equivalent of 185km/KWh, placing it third in its fuel class.
For 2013 the team has found a fresh way to test their skills: powering the car with an electric battery charged by solar panels. With support from a firm that makes solar panels, Florian wants to show what can be achieved with an alternative energy source: “Many people agree that in future we will need a mix of energies,” he says. “With our cars we want to show that the future is now.”
Not alone: Car BALDOS II from Luleå University of Technology, Sweden, first secured a licence plate for their Shell Eco-marathon car in 2009. This year two Dutch teams from the Technical University of Eindhoven and the University of Applied Sciences in Arnhem-Nijmegen have taken up the challenge.
Shell Eco-marathon Europe will run from 15-19 May in Rotterdam.
|Energy source:||Solar electricity|
|Unique car features:||Incorporates design elements from Porsche. Two-seater. Was licensed to drive on public roads.|
|Years in the competition||6|
|Record to beat:||233 km/kWh (first place). New to solar.|
Team ProTRon are also entering their proTRon car into the prototype category: with a stronger focus on energy efficiency, their record in this car stands at 3,465 km/l.
Who's on the team?
Twenty-five year old Florian Deutscher is team captain for the prototype car. He also led the project to have the UrbanConcept car AERIS certified for public roads. He loves a new challenge and believes that “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Passionate about sports cars, Florian himself drives an old Peugeot 107. While he has a new girlfriend, he has to spend most of his nights in the workshop on the car!
Martin Person is team captain for the UrbanConcept car.
He is very well-organised and already has detailed plans for the competition days in place. He hopes to be fuelling the team as well as the car in Rotterdam: “We have a very good cook!” Martin is able to apply his skills as a mechanical engineering student to improving the car.
He is proud of the team spirit he helps generate – vital when working together all year round and all night long in the run-up to the event.
In his (now limited) free time he likes taking photos and playing video games.
Team supervisor Prof. Dr. Ing. Hartmut Zoppke lends the benefit of his experience to guide the mechanical engineering of the car. He is a fan of Shell Eco-marathon since it gives students the chance to “learn by doing”. The trick of an efficient car is to keep it lightweight, and his motto is “reduce to the max!” When not lecturing, Hartmut enjoys sailing, canoeing, cycling and climbing.
Vitalia Piroddu is the 21-year-old UrbanConcept car driver. She signed up to Shell Eco-marathon because she is interested in engineering and new technologies. Since the event requires her to be part of a team, Vitalia saw this as a chance to meet new people. She doesn’t believe in following others – so will hopefully be out in front in Rotterdam!