Day 5 began in high spirits and we were ready for more testing on all fronts. Some brainstorming the previous night had resulted in ideas on how to fix the issues with the fuel-cell system and the motor. For some reason, the fuel-cell controller was turning off during operation and stopping the flow of electricity to the car. We were also ready to install our new motor controller, the Vedder, which had just started working the previous night. We were expecting this to increase the speed of the car with more precise control over the motor.
Day 3 at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe started bright and early at 6:30 am. We made our way to the paddocks to continue working on the car and to take it to technical inspection for the first time in London. With spot number 20 in the line, we queued up in high spirits which, unfortunately, soon turned to boredom since we needed to wait for a total of four hours before getting into the testing area. One of our more opportunistic members (calling you out Ryan!) even decided to catch up on some much needed sleep inside the car!
We’re in London for the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2016 and the inaugural Drivers’ World Championship! The team was greeted with warm weather as most of our members met up and headed to the venue, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
First item on the list – team registration. This is required by all teams attending the competition and is where we get our participant badges, official team number sticker, etc. Two members of our team, Jerry and Harry, joined the immense queue and began the process. Unfortunately, the line was so long that this process took several hours. After finally getting this sorted out, we headed to the paddocks area to locate our designated working spot (paddock) and the big crate containing our car and equipment. We found our spot but couldn’t find our crate. After asking around a little, we were informed that the crate was too heavy to bring inside the paddocks area and was placed outside. A little relieved at this discovery, we found the crate, unpacked it, and brought everything to our paddock.
Like every other morning, the team woke up early to resume working on the car. This morning began with conditioning our fuel cell and making minor adjustments before we took Alice out onto the race track for 8:00AM.
As Alice took off from the start line, the team anxiously timed her first lap to see how fast we were going. We turned out to be a few seconds faster than the 2:24 average lap time needed to finish within 24 minutes! After completing our 10 laps, we finished with about 25 seconds to spare. We did it!… or so we thought. Upon crossing the finish line, we were informed that Shell’s flowmeter (which is used to track our fuel efficiency and how much hydrogen we used) stopped working after 6 laps. They would not extrapolate our fuel efficiency based on our first 6 laps, but they did give us another chance to race this morning.
This afternoon, our famed driver, Jason geared up and the team headed outside for our first attempt at the real race! Alice went smoothly out of the start gate, though Jason noticed that after each bump on the road, there was a grinding sound and the car slowed down significantly. About halfway through the first lap (twice as far as we made it last year), the car stopped working. Alice was towed the remainder of the lap so that we could transport her back into our paddock area.
Last night, the Electrical team was working away at full steam to sort out the hydrogen sensors and CANbus system to allow us to pass tech inspection. With the car never having functioned on a hydrogen fuel cell before, we still were not sure if the car would even move. This year, Shell implemented a new rule stating that teams could not work in the paddock area (where the cars and work stations are housed) from midnight until 6:00AM. As this midnight deadline approached, the pressure mounted to fix these issues so that we could go to tech inspection as soon as it opened the next morning. All hands were on deck as we were attempting to test all of the electrical systems with the fuel cell.
Happy Earth Day!!!
After our first tech inspection earlier this afternoon, we had a few minor adjustments that needed to be made. Tech inspection only stayed open until 7:00PM, and so we knew we only had a couple of hours after our first inspection to make these changes if we wanted to have a second inspection today.
Day 2 of the Shell Eco-marathon Americas began for the Electrical team early this morning debugging in preparation for the mandatory Technical Inspection.
At 8:30AM, the Shell Eco-marathon Americas officially began with the opening ceremonies followed by the annual photo of all SEMA teams and vehicles. The Chairman of Shell was present and welcomed all of us to Detroit. In the spirit of innovation and to capture all 200 or so vehicle teams in the photo, Shell used a drone to fly overhead and capture all of the teams with their cars!
Alice and the team have arrived safe and sound in Detroit! We’ve spent most of today fixing some small portions of the car and getting ready for technical inspection, which we need to complete before we are allowed to drive on the track. Meanwhile, our electrical team is making backup boards and debugging remaining issues with the system.
After two years of planning, building, re-planning, and some more building, the EcoCar team’s new car, Alice, is finally ready. Our team has put in a lot of hard work and effort into this car. In fact, for the past few months, many of our members have been working on the car till the early hours of the morning, sometimes till 5 am!