Design Engineering

UAlberta Eco-Car team shows off experimental zero-emissions car


General Automotive Shell Eco-marathon Americas University of Alberta

The team is entering a second vehicle, dubbed Sophie, in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition.

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition is set to take place at the end of April. Last year, the University of Alberta Eco Car team took first place in Urban Concept category with a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. This year’s team is hoping to continue the winning streak by entering a second vehicle to the competition in the experimental “Prototype” category.

Alberta Concept Vehicle  Sophie

Photo courtesy of the University of Alberta

The UAlberta Eco Car team showed off its new zero-emissions vehicle, and hopes to win big. The University of Alberta has a history of winning at this event. The team has finished in every Eco-marathon it has competed in since its premier race in 2012.

The team had strong successes to draw on when it came to designing its Prototype vehicle, called “Sophie”.

“We wanted to design and build one of our own so we can further improve our vehicles,” said Natasha Pye, a second-year engineering physics student and one of the team leaders. “We started an R&D sub-group this year, focused on hydrogen fuel cells and autonomous driving” she added. “Our team is at a point now where we are considering building our own fuel cell.”


Last year’s “Alice” Urban Concept vehicle won first place at the Eco-marathon in Detroit, Michigan. The win earned the team a berth at the world championships in London, England, but a technical issue kept the team off the podium. Over 1,000 students participated in the event with 124 teams from seven different countries.

This year the team is bringing Alice, with some refinements, and Sophie, the Prototype vehicle, to Detroit April 27-30, 2017, with the hopes of qualifying for the London contest.

Unlike a traditional race which is all about speed, these competitions challenge the car’s ability to go the furthest using the least amount of energy. The UAlberta team has a winning record with its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Last year, their vehicle achieved the energy equivalent of about 1,300 miles per gallon.

Pye says that no matter what the outcome of the competition, team members are gaining experience that will serve them for a lifetime.

“In school we have design classes but we don’t necessarily have time to do hands-on work and apply what we’ve learned,” she said. “These groups let us do that—it’s a real engineering experience. It gives us the opportunity to prove ourselves and that gives us a really strong advantage.”


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