Apr 3, 2017 | By Benedict

Students from Canada’s University of Alberta will drive two partially 3D printed eco-cars at the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition in Detroit later this month. The cars, named Alice and Sofie, both have 3D printed steering wheels with touch screens.

Car racing is, with few exceptions, about getting to the finish line in the shortest time possible. Whether it’s a solo time trial or a head-to-head race, speed tends to be the factor that determines winning or losing. At the Shell Eco-Marathon, however, things are a little different. Rather than race to the finish line, cars participating in this “race” need to drive 10 miles using as little energy as possible, whether that’s gasoline, diesel, fuel cells, solar cells, or autogas. The winner is thus determined by efficiency instead of speed.

The 2017 edition of the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas (there are also events in Europe and Asia) takes place April 27-30, and will feature energy-efficient cars made by a number of top universities, including the University of Alberta. That institution will actually be bringing two vehicles to the event, both of which use hydrogen fuel cells and both of which travel at about 30 kilometres per hour. Interestingly, they both make use of 3D printing too.

The two eco-cars built by the University of Alberta are named Alice and Sofie, the former having experience from last year’s event and the latter being a brand new machine. The two cars have other differences besides their age, however. Alice, an urban concept car, is designed with consumers in mind, and is fitted with road-necessary components like windshield wipers, mirrors, a horn, and a seat belt. Sofie is a different beast altogether, showing off three lightweight bicycle wheels and an aerodynamic body.

Alice at last year's Shell Eco-Marathon

The 2016 event in Detroit was a success for the University of Alberta and its Alice eco-car, which finished first in the hydrogen UrbanConcept category. The world championships in London went less well, with driver Nikola Viktorov having to swerve to avoid another vehicle—an incident which caused Alice to lose speed and eventually stop moving. The students working on the vehicles this year, some of whom are still in their teens, have relished the opportunity to put their skills into practice, and are looking for an even better performance than last year.

The 2017 version of Alice brings in a number of improvements, including a totally redesigned wiring system and a new back hatch design which adds stability to the car. Sofie, being brand new, is more of a wildcard, but the university thinks that both cars have a chance to show off their capabilities at the event. Both vehicles feature 3D printed steering wheels with touch screens.

Regardless of the outcome of the Shell Eco-Marathon, the University of Alberta team is confident that its cars can raise awareness about hydrogen-powered eco-cars, which are currently quite expensive to build but which have a number of promising aspects that could make them a viable alternative to gasoline-powered cars.

CAD model of the new Sofie eco-car

“We definitely think that in the future, as technology develops, maybe some day we’ll be able to put this into practice in everyday life,” said Dana Andrishak, 20, a mechanical engineering student at the university.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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