MU's Hydrogen Car to Compete In International Race

6 years 11 months 4 weeks ago Monday, March 19 2012 Mar 19, 2012 Monday, March 19, 2012 5:13:00 PM CDT March 19, 2012 in News
By: Mengti Xu

COLUMBIA - The Mizzou Hydrogen Car Team will head to Houston next week to compete against teams from the U.S. and Canada with its car, the Tigergen III.

The Shell Eco-marathon, an international event, includes the UrbanConcept and the Prototype categories. The Mizzou team chose the UrbanConcept category, which has more requirements for the car.

The team has about 30 members different disciplines. Sixteen members will travel with the team to the race. Last year, MU was the only team in the hydrogen fuel cell UrbanConcept category. The Tigergen II car finished the race with a 476 mpg equivalent of gasoline. This year, the team will face more competitors and challenges in the race, and the team members said they hope to achieve at least a 500 mpg equivalent. 

The team has to defeat other teams from the University of Houston, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Alberta, Canada to win the race.

MU junior Nathan Park, the head mechanic of the team, has worked for the team for three years. He said he can't wait to go to Houston.

"It's gonna be three days of fun fuel adventure, so we are all getting read and getting excited," Park said.

Members come to their lab to work on the car almost every day. On Monday, students Rob Margherio and Paul Smith worked on the bulkhead firewall for the car's safety. They measured the aluminum sheeting and cut it based on the scale and shape of the car. They attached the sheeting to the back of the car before topping the car with the cover. 

Park said although the hydrogen car is four times less flammable than the typical gasoline system, the team still wants to make sure the car has a good safety system that can protect its driver. 

Talking about the driver, Park said, "We choose the driver pretty much based on the weight because we want to get the lightest person to improve our efficiency, so usually that's the girls." Christine Cheah, a senior student from Malaysia, will drive the car during the race. Although only one person will control the car on the track, the rest of the members will monitor the car, communicating the best racing strategies.  

In a small room in Engineering Building West, everyone worked on different body parts of the car, and they said they hope they can finish the car before they go to Houston.

According to the requirements of the race, each team in the hydrogen fuel cell UrbanConcept category has 30 minutes to complete 10 laps of around 10 miles in Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston. The judges of the race will decide the winner based on the fuel efficiency of the car.  

To achieve the maximum fuel efficiency, the team produced an independent suspension system for the car, which allows the car to improve the rolling resistance. This year, the members gave the car new fuel cells, which Park said "are about 20 times more efficient." 

On Monday, Park and Margherio explained the system of the car to several tours, handing out materials the car uses to the people to let them feel the car. Many of them expressed their interest in the car, crouching down to have a close look at the car and touching the car with their hands.    

Park said he hopes the team can have a final check on the car next week. Then, the team will use a trailer to move the car to Houston. The race will last from Mar. 29 through April 1.

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