Sponsored by Altair, the Vehicle Design for Urban Concept recognizes innovative design research and execution and awards the most original and coherent vehicle in terms of aesthetics, ergonomics, technical feasibility, choice of materials and eco-friendliness.
For their entry the LA Tech Eco Car team focused on three main areas of their design in order to reduce weight and decrease material consumption. This included the frame construction, body construction and powertrain design.
The team began by developing a concept, then 3D modeled and milled a one-piece plug for the vehicle made from Styrofoam to establish the shape. Some parts were shaped by hand due to the limitations of the CNC milling machine, but once the Styrofoam plug took the shape of the 3D model, they began to lay the carbon fiber.
Design upgrades were determined by examining the team’s performance in the 2019 Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition and identifying areas of improvement. The team evaluated the stresses on the frame, then strengthened the frame in areas that needed additional support and reduced carbon fiber in areas that did not receive as much stress. The result was a decrease in frame weight of 15 pounds, half the weight of the 2019 frame, while still retaining rigidity and most of the strength. The team also reduced the amount of carbon fiber overlap on the body and reduced the layer to one in non-structural areas.
Other noteworthy design considerations included the use of a battery electric powertrain versus the team’s previous gasoline powertrain, which reduced the vehicle weight by 30 pounds, designing the layout of the composite to crumple outwards and away from the driver in the event of a car collision, building a spacious driver’s compartment, removable steering wheel, and large door to allow the driver a swift entrance and exit from the car, and using scrap carbon fiber from manufacturers.
Overall, the LA Tech Eco Car team exemplified the award criteria and demonstrated excellent design innovation skills. And the biggest factor in their success? Their never-ending drive to always improve and work more efficiently than the day before. This allowed them to collaborate throughout the design and develop processes that ensured they had the best product possible.
Learn more about the winning team