Rotterdam 2015

Impressive news from the new Prototype CNG category late yesterday afternoon: team Microjoule-La Joliverie pulled off a 2,521km/litre equivalent first attempt (imagine driving from Rotterdam to Palermo on one litre). New category, new benchmark.

The first UrbanConcept challenge started this morning. First on track was Louis Delage School from France with their gasoline car, pulling off 476km/litre equivalent to lead their category and set a new track record. French Team Iut Gmp Valenciennes have set a track record of 1,323km/l in the Prototype diesel category. 

DTU Roadrunners soon rode triumphantly to the top of the UrbanConcept ethanol category with 557km/l equivalent. After fire damaged their car two days ago, and with 200 hours of combined teamwork under their belts, the result was just 42km/l short of their 2014 winning best.

In Prototype gasoline, team TED from France swept into the lead, above Remmi-Team, with 2,308km/l. 

The CNG prize

Your car’s internal combustion engine uses a high-pressure injection system to deliver a fine spray of gasoline and air into the combustion chamber about 25 times per second. The size of the spray nozzles and the duration of each jet (just 7 milliseconds) are critical to the engine’s performance.

The same principle applies when using compressed natural gas, except natural gas moves much more freely than liquid gasoline. The challenge for CNG teams this year is to hit just the right balance between the size of the spray nozzles and the timing of the jets. It also means fine-tuning their electrical systems. Gas purity also has a big impact on performance. 

But it’s worth it: the category has big-prize potential. “If they get it right, they can actually achieve a better performance than with gasoline,” says Gilles Vanier from the technical team.

Of course, there is no need to repeat how well team Microjoule-La Joliverie is doing. Late Saturday afternoon, Slovak Fme Racing Team team passed their technical inspection after the 99% pure gas in Rotterdam gave them engine trouble. Team Callo from France told a similar story, but were able to lower the flow of gas and still achieve the same distance, with 1,496km/l after the third attempt.

Uh-huh? Aha!

In the paddock, around the track, innovation big and small is everywhere. One team has integrated their seat cushion into the driver’s suit, not the seat. Another – team ElBa from Sweden – pooled three separate school projects into one hybrid UrbanConcept gasoline car with two electric motors and a combustion engine.

Team manager Helen Ghattas explained that the big electric motor starts the 146kg car moving, then the combustion engine takes over. The heat from its exhaust charges a battery called the “supercap”. At top speed, the driver then switches to the small electric motor – powered by the supercap – to maintain speed. When the voltage drops, the driver switches back to the combustion engine and keeps toggling between the two as the car goes around the track.

The UK’s Team Hydrone from University College London built a Prototype hydrogen car which driver Wonna Farouk steers with her feet, removing the need for a steering column and wheel and saving about 6kg. “I was a bit worried about steering around curves with my feet,” said Wonna, “but I’ve done a lot of training to get used to it.”

Eye bags

Two Dutch teams may have spent more time on the road than on the track. Team EVA from Amsterdam returned from their 400km round-trip to Germany with a new hydrogen fuel cell after theirs failed. Then HAN Hydromotive team drove nearly 1,400km to Leipzig and back to buy a new actuator.

Spanish team GORBEA soldiered on with one fuel cell broken and consuming too much hydrogen. Team member Manuel Magalhaes was unsure if they could finish their next attempt. 

Time to unwind

Turkish teams have been celebrating their 10-year anniversary at Shell Eco-marathon Europe, first with a party in the student tent zone. Today, Team TERAKKI eased the competition pressure with cake and gifts of candles in the paddock.

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