Two teams of NAU engineering students recently competed in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas 2012 in Houston.

About 30 NAU students, several of whom are members of the university’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers, entered the gas-powered Road Axe and the all-electric Everest. The students put in a total of 3,000 hours to construct the cars, and for several it also served as a capstone senior project.

“No faculty member built anything, including me,” said John Tester, associate professor of mechanical engineering and adviser for the chapter of the automotive engineering club.
“They were on their own.”

The event challenges high school and college student teams from around the world to develop energy-efficient vehicles in two categories. The first category is for prototypes designed for fuel efficiency, which typically includes streamlined, futuristic-looking vehicles. The second category is for urban concept vehicles that also must meet road-worthiness criteria of modern passenger vehicles, including doors, four wheels, a brake pedal, seatbelts and external lights.

The urban-concept Road Axe completed all six runs around the track, but was not the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. Everest, also an urban-concept vehicle, is the first all-electric car built by NAU students. It developed mechanical difficulties that could not be repaired on site and did not finish the competition.

“Just making it to the competition was a milestone,” said Lauren Green, senior engineering student, team manager and three-time participant in the competition.

Local Flagstaff businesses NOVA Kinetics and Motor Excellence supported the project with in-kind and monetary donations and technical expertise.