Saskatoon students hit the road for fuel efficiency competition

A group of students from Saskatoon's Saskatchewan Polytechnic are putting the pedal to the medal in Detroit in a race to fuel efficiency.

Sask. Polytechnic students competing in Detroit on Wednesday with homemade 'green' car

Six students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic have spent the past five months building the most fuel-efficient vehicle they could. (Tim Muench)

A group of students from Saskatoon's Saskatchewan Polytechnic are putting the pedal to the metal in Detroit in a race to fuel efficiency.

Six students from the school's mechanical engineering technology program will be the first group from Saskatoon to compete at the Shell Eco-marathon this week.

The competition challenges students around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car.
Student Cody Leusca said he learned a lot throughout the course of the project. (Tim Muench)

"They built the car completely, including a carbon fibre body and everything else that goes along with it, in about two months. Just to see that flurry of activity trying to get that done is amazing," said Tim Muench, mechanical engineering technology program head.

"It's really aerodynamic, really efficient and really fun to drive," said Cody Leusca of the group's final product, which is about three metres long.

The six-foot-two student has to lie down in the car to drive it. He said it's similar to driving a motorcycle because of the vibrations.

"Even though we don't go more than 50 km/h, it's perfect."

Leusca said the car has a fuel efficiency of about 2,000 miles per gallon.

Helping it be as green as possible is the aerodynamic body design, the engine (sized correctly for the vehicle), as well as a fuel-injection system.

Leusca said the plan is to run the engine for a couple of seconds, then shut it off and coast.

Muench said the judges measure the amount of fuel the car consumes over the course of 10 laps.

The vehicle can go about 2,000 miles per gallon. (Tim Muench)

You may ask why young students would spend their evenings and weekends building a car, without getting academic credit. For Leusca, there were a number of benefits.

"It's a challenge from the start to the end," he said. "I like challenges."

He added that many of the skills he learned in class translated to the day-to-day operations of the build.

Whether the team wins or not, Muench thinks the project was worth the time.

"When the students have a passion for something, the amount that they learn is way more than they would learn just by sitting in a classroom."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning