UC Berkeley students race in car using only few drops of gas

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
EMBED <>More Videos

A team of engineering students at UC Berkeley will race through the streets of Detroit this weekend in a car that uses very little gas.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- What kind of mileage does your car get? It may sound ludicrous to dream of getting hundreds of miles per gallon, but some UC Berkeley students will be racing through the streets of Detroit this weekend, on just a few drops of gas.

The students showed ABC7 News the fuel bottle they used last year, but you can hardly call it a gas tank. The gas is not measured in gallons, but in milliliters.

"It is remarkable how little fuel we are using in this competition," mechanical engineering junior Lucas Schroyer said.

And that's the whole point of the Shell Eco-Marathon.

"What we are competing for is not miles per hour, but rather miles per gallon," Schroyer said.

For this team from UC Berkeley, it is down to the wire -- building a car from cutting edge materials with just hours before they have to leave for the race.

When asked how much sleep he has gotten this past week, mechanical engineering senior Bjorn Temple replied he hadn't gotten much sleep at all, only three hours Monday night.

Temple is the engine guy -- the one-cylinder engine guy. He's taking this seriously.

Bloom: "Just like you'd be pulling an all-nighter for a term paper, you're pulling an all-nighter for a car?"

Temple: "I wouldn't pull an all-nighter for a term paper, this is way more important to us."

Together, the team has learned all about lightweight composites -- which start out soft as fabric and come out hard stable -- and specialized tires. They say you can really feel every single bump that's on the road, you need some serious safety gear, and a driver who can squeeze into tight spaces.

However, perhaps the biggest technical achievement is one the judges will never see. In order to build their car from scratch, the team decided they wanted to build a computer-controlled power tool from scratch.

"We built our very own CNC router, which basically enabled us to make our molds for the car in-house. Everything for the car this year was made in-house," Schroyer said.

Instead of ordering molds, they can make them at 3 a.m. It'll make future teams more productive.

"Next spring we're actually hoping to produce two cars, maybe an electric vehicle and a gasoline one," Schroyer said.

And win or lose, they say the important thing is getting their hands dirty.

"It's something that's incredibly fun. We join these groups because we love working on these things," mechanical engineering sophomore Zane Liu said.