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Hydrogen Car team takes new car to competition, looks ahead to next year

Tigergen III, the Mizzou Hydrogren Car team’s newest vehicle travels the course around Discovery Green in Houston at the 2012 Shell Eco-marathon March 28-April 1. While the car didn’t manage to complete a qualifying run, team members say they are looking forward to improving the car and taking it to next year’s competition. Photo provided by the Mizzou Hydrogen Car Club

The Mizzou Hydrogen Car team raced its newest car, Tigergen III, at the 2012 Shell Eco-marathon March 28-April 2, and while the car didn’t take home a prize, team members say they look forward to making improvements to the car and racing in next year’s race.

Junior Nathan Park won a $1,000 scholarship at the 2012 Shell Eco-marathon. Park is one of the head mechanical engineers on the Mizzou Hydrogen Car team.

Junior Nathan Park, one of the team’s head mechanical engineers, said that the competition was still rewarding because the team was competing with other schools with similar vehicles. In the past two competitions, no other hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were entered into the urban concepts section of the competition.

“Even though we didn’t finish a qualifying run, we got to compete with other teams from around the country,” he said.

Park, a mechanical engineering major, did not leave the competition empty-handed, however. He won a $1,000 scholarship.

“I put my name in for the scholarship. It was a drawing,” he said.

Mizzou Hydrogen Car team members have worked on Tigergen III for the past two years. Parts from its predecessor, Tigergen II, were recycled for use in the new car, and other parts were new additions.

Mizzou Hydrogen Car Club President Victoria Hezel said the team’s newest car, Tigergen III, was made based off of its predecessor, Tigergen II.

Club president Victoria Hezel said the club spent most of the first year of the Tigergen III project designing the new car and worked on it until competition.

“Some of the more expensive parts, or parts that would be exactly the same every year, we pulled off the old car,” Hezel, a senior industrial engineering major, said.

Entries in the urban concepts fuel cell category at the Eco-marathon must complete a qualifying run of at least 10 laps and three stops around a course comprised of the streets bordering Discovery Green, a public park area that promotes healthy living and sustainability, in downtown Houston. The objective of the competition was to achieve the highest rate of fuel efficiency.

After a mishap — a failed motor controller early Saturday morning — team electricians senior Alex Devilbiss and sophomore Tim Laidlaw, both electrical engineering majors, were able to repair the vehicle and make an attempt at three qualifying runs on Sunday. With driver Lara Pisarkiewicz, a sophomore biological engineering major, behind the wheel, Park said that other members of the team stationed themselves along the course. That strategy taught them a lesson as well.

“We learned how to communicate with each other,” he said.

Sophomore Tim Laidlaw worked into the wee hours of the morning after the Mizzou Hydrogen Car team’s car, Tigergen III, experienced a setback. Laidlaw said he plans on being on the team next year when it takes Tigergen III back to the Eco-marathon.

Laidlaw said the hands-on experience was valuable to him.

“I learned a lot about electrical systems working on the car this year, and I would like to encourage anyone who is curious about fuel cell vehicles, electronics or any other field to come attend our meetings and see what we’re all about.”

The car’s best run was its last, completing six of the 10 laps necessary before the fuel cells shut off and the car coasted to a stop. Park said even though the car didn’t complete a qualifying run, he thought it was performing very well.

“I had really high hopes for the system,” Park said. “I kept hearing the car was very fuel efficient.”

The Mizzou team wasn’t the only team with troubles. Only half of those registered in the same category completed runs. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign won the Urban Concepts fuel cell category, which was the category Tigergen III competed in, with an average fuel efficiency of 18 m/kWh, which equates to approximately 621 mpg equivalent of gasoline.

Now team members are looking ahead to next year’s Eco-marathon. Park, who has attended the past three competitions, said while he is not planning on making the trip to Houston, he does plan on staying in the club to mentor to new members.

“I have full faith the car will do extremely well,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in next year’s team.”

Laidlaw, who also plans to stay with the team next year, said now that team members had one competition with the car under their belts, they will be able to perfect the car for next year.

“We will absolutely be taking the car back next year, and it will absolutely be running,” he said.



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