BYU super mileage vehicle goes the distance

The super mileage team works to prepare for one of the vehicle’s test runs. From left: Chris Wride, Carson Zaugg, Miles Davis, Adam Ziegenfelder and Jared Lutz. (Jason Lutz)

BYU’s mechanical engineering department built a vehicle more keen on overall distance than it is on speed. One of the mechanical engineering major’s capstones is the super mileage vehicle, or a car that can go a great distance using very little fuel.

This current vehicle, which is the newest in a long line of vehicles made at BYU over the last decade, can get 1,400 miles per gallon with top speeds of 25 miles an hour, according to capstone member Jared Lutz.

Lutz, a senior in the mechanical engineering program, worked on the super mileage vehicle. He started off as a volunteer during Winter 2016, and is now part of the engine team for the vehicle.

“Two of our goals was to reduce the wasted fuel you get from start up and to make the engine burn fuel more efficiently,” Lutz said.

Lutz said the team had some hiccups along the way, but has bounced back from each of them quickly. The team consists of 17 capstone students and half a dozen volunteers, and is preparing for a competition in Detroit, Michigan on April 27–30.

The competition is the Shell Eco-marathon, started in 1939, and has expanded to three continents. The competition “challenges students around the world to design, build, test and drive ultra-energy-efficient vehicles,” according to Shell’s website.

The team was unable to compete last year because of technical issues, but is looking forward to redeeming itself this year.

One of the sponsors of the capstone is the Ford Motor Company. Carl Sorensen, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the capstone program, said Ford’s involvement came from a premiere program BYU is a part of.

“Ford decided that BYU would be one of their premiere universities, meaning that they would place priority on recruiting students from BYU,” Sorensen said. “As part of this program, they sponsor projects that are related to cars and the automotive industry.”

Dale Tree is the current capstone coach, a professor in the mechanical engineering department and an expert on combustion. He said this capstone wouldn’t be in the state it’s in if not for Jerry Bowman, who was a mechanical engineering professor and former capstone coach until he retired last year. The team won several awards in past competitions under Bowman’s leadership.

“(Bowman) has taken his team to those competitions in the past,” Tree said. “I think he has won second place overall at the Shell Eco-marathon competition three times, and I believe they had the highest mileage twice at that competition.”

Tree said the team has taken the progress of past years and made a more reliable engine for the competition. He said it has been fun to advise this year’s team in engine creation, and the team is hoping to do even better than in years past.

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