A Day at the Eco-friendly Races

By Frank Radosevich II
April 4, 2012

With gas prices hovering around the $4 mark, who wouldn’t want a car with a fuel efficiency of roughly 300 miles per gallon?

Looking to build a more environmentally friendly automobile, a team of Bradley mechanical engineering students has done just that. Called the Jobst Jalopy, the vehicle is a gasoline-powered, three-wheeled prototype designed to be as aerodynamic and lightweight as possible. 

Weighing in at 176 pounds, it sports a repurposed motorbike engine that is housed in a chromoly steel frame covered with fiberglass. At roughly 11.5 feet long and 2.5 feet high, the vehicle — named after Jobst Hall, the home of Bradley's College of Engineering and Technology — is just large enough for drivers to lay down with their legs extended.

“The car wasn’t built for comfort,” said driver Erik Pasillas, a senior from Waukegan, “but it’s not that bad.”


The Jobst Jalopy: Bradley's Shell Eco-marathon Car

Pasillas said the team learned early on in the project to tailor their design toward a final, working model. The hands-on experience of drawing up the blueprints and piecing the vehicle together offered the students a new perspective.

“When you make a design, it has to be able to be manufactured,” he said.

The team of four students constructed the vehicle for a senior project and entered it in the 2012 Shell Eco-marathon Americas race in Houston last weekend. Although it suffered two flat tires due to the potholes, team captain Janelle Bean said seeing the vehicle round the track was a welcomed end to their months of work.

“There are a lot of things we learned down there. It’s nice to have this milestone,” said Bean, a senior from Golden. “It’s definitely an extensive project that takes a lot of hard work and time but it’s worth it.”

The competition requires student teams to design, build and test-drive their own fuel-efficient vehicles along a loop of city streets. Powered by any fuel or electric technology, vehicles win by traveling the farthest distance while using the least amount of fuel. This was the University’s first year participating in the Shell Eco-marathon.

Dr. Martin Morris ’77, ’79 MSME, professor of mechanical engineering who oversaw the project, said he was amazed by the team’s perseverance when it came to overcoming setbacks during the design and building process.

“When they run into a problem, they solve it. They have to address a lot of challenges,” he said of the team. “Every time something happens they have found a way to fix it.” 

Problems included fitting the curved windscreen to the body of the vehicle as well as some last minute repairs to wiring and some tweaks to the braking system. Overall, Dr. Morris said the students did excellent work on a tight schedule. He hopes that Bradley’s first foray at the Eco-marathon won’t be its last.

“I plan to go back,” Dr. Morris said. “It was a lot of fun.”