On April 13th, the Cal Poly Supermileage team took first place in the Prototype Battery Electric category at the 2022 Shell Eco-Marathon event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Overcoming long odds after a year spent building up the team again following two years of virtual instruction, the Cal Poly team won with an efficiency of 139.7 miles per kilowatt hour, besting second place by over 45 miles per kilowatt hour.
For team lead Trevor Jones (computer engineering, physics), this year was all about making it to the finish of the event and solidifying the team’s future. The team’s focus on reliability paid off immensely, and the Cal Poly Supermileage group was one of only a few that breezed through technical inspection at the competition, and achieved a valid run before weather conditions later in the competition prevented any further runs from being attempted.
The competition itself was held on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where each team must complete four laps of the 2.5-mile course within a time span of 40 minutes or less, with the winner being determined by which team has the highest energy efficiency.
As a team trying to build itself back up after all but Jones had graduated during virtual instruction, the learning curve to produce a car to not only meet rules, but finish the events was steep, but as more members joined the team throughout the year, the outlook became more and more positive for the team.
Working out of the aero hangar on campus, the team spent a lot of time bench testing their electronics system, making sure every component worked, and fixing anything that didn’t. Though they had a successful year this year, Jones admits there’s still work to be done in order to have a repeat performance at the competition next year:
“There’s a reason we won: we had a reliable car that was able to meet the specifications and pass tech inspection and do a valid run,” said Jones, “But we definitely need to make sure we’re still on the top of our game for next year. There were a couple of teams that probably would have beat us had they been able to get in valid runs.”
The motivation to stay on the top step of the podium for next year will bring new ideas and challenges to the program, including building their first new chassis in over four years.
“No one in the club now has ever built the chassis, including me, so trying to re-figure out how to do all the manufacturing for it will be a big learning experience for us next year.”
With a 1st place win on the resume and a growing club in the aero hangar, the Cal Poly Supermileage team’s future is bright. Their victory this past April in Indianapolis proved the success of Learn by Doing for the students, and placed Cal Poly at the forefront of developing students to design and build the next generation of energy efficient vehicles.