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CU Denver engineering students design 1,000-mile-per-gallon vehicle

Carbon filament (left to top right) compared to a human hair.
Carbon filament (left to top right) compared to a human hair.
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CU Denver Mechanical Engineering students from the Senior Design class designed and built a vehicle that can travel more than 1,000 miles per gallon. The class competed at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in the hydrogen fuel cell category, taking first place.

The team's vehicle, named Archetype competed in a category that is focused on futuristic vehicles that have achieved extreme fuel efficiency.

Archetype took eight months to design and manufacture, is powered by a hydrogen fuel, made of carbon fiber, and on April 26, competed on a six-mile track, demonstrating that it was indeed the vehicle that could go the farthest on the least amount of energy.

Hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe. Hydrogen must be manufactured. There are different methods for producing it, such as electrolysis. In this method, water is used to run electricity through, separating the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The hydrogen then becomes an energy carrier and that energy can be delivered to fuel cells. Whether that energy is used to generate electricity or heat, or burned in a combustion engine, the hydrogen is combined with oxygen to form water.

Ben Johnson, team captain and CU-Denver, said in a press release, " We have an excellent group dynamic which fostered teamwork and synergy even in the most stressful times."

Ron Rorrer, Team Advisor and Associate Professor of mechanical engineering, said, "Everyone focuses too much on the win, forgetting it is the journey, not the destination, that is important."

And, as an example of that particular bit of praise, the Archetype team helped a competitor fix their vehicle. Rorrer said, "As the faculty member, perhaps the thing that impressed me was when one of our team members said he'd rather lose to that team than not see them compete,"

Rorrer said. The CU Denver team has won first place in the hydrogen fuel cell category twice. Their last win was in 2013 with a vehicle that achieved a maximum of 205 miles per gallon.

credit: CU Denver press release.