HOUSTON – The next great vehicle breakthrough could be on a workbench right now.
"We chose this, the urban concept category, to work on because those are the kind of cars that we work on here at school," said Angel Rodriguez.
As a senior at Aleif Elsik High School, Angel is also the team captain of Blue Octane. They are building a car.
"You have a windshield wiper, you have backup lights, you have turn signals, headlights, everything a regular car has," said Rodriguez.
Except for one big difference: They're designing the vehicle for fuel efficiency.
I'm talking about a goal of 200 miles per gallon.
All of it is to compete in the 11th annual Shell Eco-marathon of Americas.
"Well actually, it goes all the way back several decades ago with a friendly wager between two scientists at the Wood River Refinery in Illinois. There were some arguments as to who could get a car to go the furthest on a gallon of fuel. They actually had a wager," said Adrian Juergens, technical director for the competition.
The competition is set to take place at the end of April in Detroit, Michigan.
Yes, this is a Shell competition.
Perhaps you're wondering the same thing I am.
"You're an energy company and yet you're encouraging people to build vehicles that use less energy. Explain that for me," KPRC2's Chip Brewster asked.
"Shell is very well aware as we proceed into the next decades, as we head toward 2050, that the mobility issue is going to be significant. The population growing, transportation increasing. We have to get the message across that it's just not i.c.e. engines anymore. It's going to be several avenues of fuel that is going to be required to meet the growing needs and so the eco-marathon is a great avenue to present that message. Not only to the students but to the public and to other key stakeholders," said Juergens.
So how does one build one of these competitive cars? For Rodriguez and his teammates, they start with what they know.
"We put all that knowledge onto the table and then whenever we have our car, or our concept built, then that's when we start making the fuel efficiency.
That's where we tune the engine, we tune it up, we change the way that the fuel is injected into the engine, the way the chain runs, the sprockets, the rotation, the friction, you know, all those things that come together to make a car efficient," said Rodriguez.
"You're taking a team that has to design, build, and actually operate their vehicle in a competition. It's actually quite an incredible task for a team to accomplish. With the hopes that these students will be encouraged to pursue science, pursue engineering, mathematics, technology, because the answers that we need for tomorrow we need to invest in today," said Juergens.
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