UFMG – Federal University of Minas Gerais

Its shape resembles a drop of water and is considered the most aerodynamic in nature, which is a characteristic associated with lower energy consumption. Inspired by this idea, the Milhagem UFMG team designed the DTI car, winner of the Shell Eco-Marathon Brasil, in the electric battery category. The competition, held in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), last month, brought together 30 teams from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Argentina.

A drop of water on four wheels was designed by former team members. The project continued with the previous team that joined during the pandemic and implemented it. The performance of the prototype was superior in the very aspect that the drop inspires: energy efficiency. The UFMG vehicle reached the mark of 312 km/kWh, which would be enough to cover, without refueling, the 351 kilometers that separate the municipalities of Resende (RJ) and Santos (SP). In a straight line, the distance between the two cities is 252 kilometers.

Maria Teresa, team pilot, next to the ‘DT1’ prototype, which resembles a drop of water in shape Fernando Souza | Shell International Limited

DT1 began development in 2017, when the bodywork (body) was designed. As the goal was to reduce friction with the air, the car was designed so that the driver could remain mostly in a horizontal position. All details are designed and computer simulated to ensure that loads are properly supported. “We have to make sure that the prototype can withstand the lateral loads, the efforts and the weight of the pilot,” explains mechanical engineering student Diogo Ferrer, one of the team members. The car’s exterior is covered in fiberglass and overlapping carbon panels. “Fiber is a light material, and at the same time resistant,” he justifies.

pandemic effect
The prototype won the same marathon in 2018 and was runner-up the following year in the Americas competition. However, during the pandemic, the car became technologically obsolete. Raquel Yonga and Gabriel Pimenta, bachelors in mechanical engineering, explain that it was not possible to carry out electrical and mechanical maintenance due to the suspension of personal academic activities. “That was our biggest difficulty,” says Diogo.

Team members gathered at the Shell Eco-Marathon competition in Rio de Janeiro
Team members gathered at the Shell Eco-Marathon competition in Rio de Janeiro Team mileage

Despite this obstacle, the team shone again in the fifth edition of the competition, the first organized after the outbreak of the pandemic, from August 22 to 25. The first day was reserved for the recognition of the test track and the final adaptation of the prototype. The second, dedicated to testing and technical inspection, was the knockout stage in which the organizers analyzed the mandatory requirements of the vehicle. In the last two days, the teams toured the track. They had four attempts to complete the journey. Then the UFMG group reached the mark of 312 km/kWh, a track record in the electricity category. The car can reach 27 km/h.

The prototypes participating in the marathon are divided into two races: one consisting of vehicles with an internal combustion engine and the other gathering electric cars. In both modes, the vehicles that finish the route with the least energy consumption win.

27 students participated in the project under the guidance of professors Fabricio Pujatti and Gabriel Fogli from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Víctor Campos from the Department of Electronic Engineering. The work was supported by the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and a group of sponsors who helped ensure the procurement of parts, some of which were imported from Germany.

The achievement earned Mileage UFMG an amount of US$1,500, which will be contributed to the continuity of the project. The team intends to build a new prototype, inspired by the DT1 but with updates, to compete in the American Marathon to be held in the United States. The model, called Monocoque, will compete in the electric battery category. Another development front is the Urban prototype, powered by combustion and also designed to represent UFMG in another category of the same competition. As its name suggests, the Urban is designed to adapt to the urban environment as well as possible.

The team receives a $1,500 check from Shell, along with a 1st place trophy
The team receives a token check worth $1,500 from Shell, along with a 1st place trophy Fernando Souza | Shell International Limited

Energy transition, market and creativity
Participating in a project like that of the Milhagem UFMG team can have consequences that go far beyond success in competitions like the Shell Marathon. The pilot of the team, Maria Teresa, a student of electrical engineering, believes that the energy transition from internal combustion engines to hybrid and electric cars plays a key role in reducing carbon emissions, with consequent consequences for the environmental conditions of the planet.

Control and Automation Engineering graduate student Letícia Andrade believes that members’ experience can have consequences on the job market. “These are the experiences and lessons we have here [na Universidade], but which we will take out. The ideas of sustainability applied to the project can serve as an example for several other situations,” he claims.

For João Gabriel Muniz, from mechanical engineering, the project also requires the reuse of materials, such as used computer parts. “Some pieces are very expensive, and that requires creativity and a sense of economy,” explains the student.

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