Circular economy refers to the continual use of resources and eliminating waste. This brand-new Award for Shell Eco-marathon Americas recognizes teams who employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling, while minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions. The judges are most interested in how their submission relates to the Shell Eco-marathon competition and the potential it has for “real world” application.
This year, the Sask Eco UC team demonstrated ingenuity using recycled parts, 3D printing and, true to their Canadian roots, even hockey sticks, to bring circular economy thinking to material selection, standardized components and effective segmentation of end of life products. Through innovation and determination, the team secured their first Circular Economy Award – their first Off-Track award since they began competing in Shell Eco-marathon in 2017.
One of the challenges which the team worked to address, and which ultimately inspired their hockey stick prototype, is the difficulty of recycling carbon fiber. They also learned from experience that the circularity of a vehicle can’t be an afterthought and must be considered during the design phase. By re-using the broken hockey sticks, the team repurposed carbon fiber beams that were otherwise bound for the landfill to construct a vehicle frame. The team conducted a series of tests to verify the strength and collapsing load for point loads on single beam segments, as well as lamination strength of beams stacked in a laminated structure. They were able to verify that laminated structures have the higher strength and rigidity required for key elements of the frame. Finally, laminated joints were also tested to prove that the joints were stronger than the beams, and that failure would not occur at the joint.
The very ingenuity and circular mindset that gave rise to a vehicle frame made of ice hockey sticks led the team to 3D print the body shell out of Polylactic Acid (PLA) plastic, a bio-plastic derived from renewable sources. The team then welded the body together using a 3D pen with a PLA filament, making the entire body completely recyclable.
Other circular considerations included a vessel for fuel delivery made from a recycled plastic bottle and honeycomb infill to reduce PLA material and energy usage from 3D printing. This step, along with repurposing batteries and designing a regenerative braking system to reduce fuel waste, enabled the team to optimize fuel utilization and reduce emissions.
The Sask Eco UC team truly exemplifies the goals of the Circular Economy award and clearly demonstrated their commitment to considering how they could use recycle and reuse materials at every possible stage in the design and build process. While the most energy efficient solutions weren’t the most obvious at the outset, the team’s success show just how far the circular economy can take you.
Learn more about the winning team