SEMA 2016 72 Hour Update

DSC_9851-EditThis 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.

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Back to all hands on deck! We first had to figure out what went wrong. After a bit of tinkering, we found a blown fuse and some diode issues with the fuel cell.  While we were fixing these problems, we were approached by Shell. They asked if we would be willing to do another test run on the race track with other urban-concept vehicles so that they could use their tracking instruments. The team had just a couple of hours to do another indoor test run and make sure all of our systems were up and running, while trying to increase our speed. So in a flurry of activity, we fixed our systems, tested on the indoor track and headed out for the outdoor test.

This time around, our very own, Mike Bardwell geared up as our driver for the outdoor track. In an unprecedented show of success, we completed a very successful total of 12 laps (each 0.6 miles)!! We were able to hit the minimum 24km/h (15mph) speed necessary to finish the real race within the time limit. In the real race, we will have to make a mandatory stop on each lap, so we anticipate needing to go faster to make up for this lost time.

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Harry, one of our members, has been hard at work this year creating an app that allows us to communicate with the driver during the race.  We were able to try this out for the first time today, and were able to livestream the footage of what Bardwell was seeing as well as the interior of the car so that Bardwell can communicate to us if there is an emergency!  Not only that, but we are also able to remotely shut down the car in the case of an emergency!  The app allows one-way radio communication between the driver and the team.  In the future, we plan to have multiple cameras that would help us make Alice closer to an autonomous vehicle... how cool is that?

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To increase our speed, we will be further conditioning our fuel cell, which will increase the voltage of the fuel cell, therefore increasing the power output. There will also be some minor electrical adjustments to optimize our ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) which controls our motor.  We will be testing these adjustments tomorrow morning when we have our next race.

About Natasha Pye

I am currently in my second year of Engineering Physics with Nanotechnology. I am the Assistant Project Manager for EcoCar this year. Chances are, if I am not sleeping, eating, or doing homework, I am either working on EcoCar or playing Ultimate Frisbee.

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