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Team travels to annual competition with new name, car

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team poses with both of its cars and trailer after the competition at the Shell Eco-marathon.

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team poses with both of its cars and trailer after the competition at the Shell Eco-marathon.

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team won two awards at the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon in Houston, Texas, April 25-27.

The MU College of Engineering team won the competition’s Communication Award and also received second place in the urban concept hydrogen fuel cell category.

The hydrogen car team is formerly organized as the Society for Development of Alternative Energy, but has been known as its informal name, Tigergen. Mizzou Eco-racing changed to its new informal name shortly before the competition to reflect its mission to build and race cars of multiple fuel sources. In addition to the hydrogen fuel vehicle, this year, for the first time, the team entered a battery-powered car, the “Batt-Cat,” into competition.

Previously, the team entered a newly built hydrogen car in alternate years. However, since team members spent this year focused on building a second vehicle, they decided to race the current hydrogen car, Tigergen III (TG3) a third time.

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team's battery-powered car, Batt-Cat, sitting on the track prior to its only attempt at a qualifying run.

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team’s battery-powered car, Batt-Cat, sits on the track prior to its only attempt at a qualifying run. The car with later be disqualified due to a safety malfunction.

The competition is focused on fuel-efficiency. Cars that pass technical and safety inspections are then allowed to attempt a qualifying run on a course in downtown Houston. To qualify, 10 laps around this course must be completed. TG3 managed to complete three qualifying runs.

“Our best run achieved a 382 miles per gallon fuel equivalency,” said team president Marcus Friedrich.

Damage to the Batt-Cat’s body disqualified the vehicle on the basis of safety considerations and regulations, and the car was not able to complete a qualifying run.

Mizzou has excelled in the off-track awards at the Shell Eco-Marathon in the last few years. Last year, the team won a $5,000 prize for the best informational graphic illustrating the impact of renewable energy. This year, the team worked toward the event’s Communication Award, which involved a pre-competition communications campaign.

TG3 on the course.

The Mizzou Eco-Racing team’s hydrogen-powered car, TG3, races along the course at the Shell Eco-marathon. The car would end up placing second in the urban concept-hydrogen cell category.

Kevin McColloch is a senior studying marketing and one of the few non-engineers on the team. He and team public relations coordinator Amber Honig, also a senior in marketing, created a campaigned centered on the team’s web presence, also involving public appearances and events.

The team submitted a three-part report documenting members’ efforts to elevate the team’s profile on its website, Facebook and Twitter. They also began promoting the Shell Eco-Marathon and the importance of renewable energy. They began working on the campaign last August, and in January, revamped the team’s website.

“Other pages that didn’t reflect current Mizzou Eco-Racing car interests and repeated content on the website, like photos, were deleted. The website was also optimized to rank highly in organic search on Google,” the team wrote in its submission paper.

“When they announced the award, we were told we put forth the biggest effort on our website and social media,” said team Vice President Malek Gentry, a junior in mechanical engineering.

Mizzou Engineering Dean Jim Thompson, in Houston during the competition, stopped by on Saturday to see team members work on the cars and got to witness one of Tigergen III’s three completed runs. Thompson and several area alumni also joined the team for lunch.

Friedrich said the team was pleased the dean was able to see the car compete in the race.

The team brought home two trophies and $3,000 in prize money. The communication award earned them $2,000, and the second place finished garnered $1,000.