By Lilliana Guerra
A booklet of blueprints lies open on a table Feb. 1 in the MESA center and is being scrutinized by engineering students as the team develops a game plan.
Their first deadline is Feb. 19 when the hydroelectric prototype vehicle the San Antonio College Motorsport team is building must be ready to drive for the worldwide energy efficiency competition Shell Eco-marathon Americas Division April 3-6 in Sonoma, Calif.
They’ve been working on this project since the start of fall, working between 10 hours a week to full days.
On Feb. 2, the team spent 12 hours crafting the front shell of the car, lab technician Ben Uresti said Feb. 5.
So far, mechanical engineering sophomore Joshua Chavana said, all changes and modifications to the design are finished, but the car is still missing some major parts.
“We’re running out of time, but we have some big stuff like the shell that’ll be done within the next week,” he said. Without the shell, which is molded from a foam placeholder, the floor of the car also cannot be cut and placed because the measurements would likely be off.
Once the floor is in, other parts can be mounted and drilled into it. Some parts of the car are being recycled from last year’s project, such as the driver’s seat, but others are brand new, notably the car’s telemetry system, which will allow the team to livestream information and videos from the car as it is moving.
The way this works, Chavana explained, is by connecting a phone to the car via Bluetooth, leaving it on or inside the car while it displays data such as voltage level and watts, and then screen-sharing the information.
This could help the team reach an international audience if they share the videos online
Further, the system would not only be capable of sharing internal data but also videos from the phone camera itself so viewers can watch the event from the driver’s perspective.
Audiences should not expect a fast race, Uresti said.
“It’s not like speed demons running down the road,” he said. “It’s kind of slow. They look like they’re just lumbering along.”
But the competition does have a time limit, which varies among divisions.
“For example, there’s the hydrogen fuel cell (category), there’s battery-powered vehicles, there is internal combustion vehicles,” Chavana explained.
“You can also go into the prototype category or the UrbanConcept category, so this is the prototype category.”
Uresti said their division’s time limit is 15 minutes and that the car travels roughly 12-18 mph.
UrbanConcept requires extra parts for the cars, such as windshield wipers and lights, and must be able to fit two people.
Chavana described it as a “more complicated category, which (the team) will be ready for next year.”
The competition awards teams both for time and fuel efficiency on the track and five categories off-track — vehicle design, safety, communications, technical innovation and perseverance.
This year will mark the team’s third time competing. Last year, SAC Motorsport placed fourth of nine in their category and won first in design. Teams who win awards not only receive recognition but also prize money, which Chavana said peaks at $3,000.
Chavana, who acts as the team’s project manager and has worked on every Eco-marathon car this college has competed with, said the tournament judges are “very strict” and test the cars in stations. One of them, he said, requires the car to be put on an incline and hold its position with only the brakes. Another makes sure that in an emergency, the driver is able to escape the vehicle within 10 seconds.