Engineers Advance in Fuel Efficient Vehicle Development

by Public Relations

Cedarville University’s Elmer W. Engstrom Department of Engineering has once again revealed its leadership in fuel efficient vehicle development by participating in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas on March 29 to April 1, 2012.

The team won a fifth-place award in the Prototype division with their combustion engine vehicle and a third-place award in the Prototype division with their electric mobility powered vehicle.

The Cedarville team consisted of 35 students representing a variety of majors including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science and business.

Lawrence Zavodney, Ph.D., senior professor of mechanical engineering, advises the team and also serves on the technical advisory board for the Shell Eco-marathon. He said that the team’s unique blend of majors, classes and genders contributes to the team’s continued success.

Cedarville students have competed in the event since 2007, and each year the team has excelled. This year the team brought three vehicles to the competition: two Prototype vehicles and one UrbanConcept vehicle. In the past the team has competed solely in the Prototype class of the competition. Prototype vehicles are designed to reduce drag and maximize efficiency, and they typically have a futuristic appearance.

This year the team also competed in the Urban Concept class for the first time. Urban Concept cars are four-wheeled fuel-economy vehicles that look similar to passenger cars that are on the road today. These vehicles must meet specific height, width, length and weight criteria and must also be able to be driven in mild, wet weather conditions. The vehicles are required to have headlights, tail lights, turn and brake lights, windshield wipers and a horn.

Zavodney shared that the team consists primarily of students who volunteer their elective time to design and build these vehicles. Senior students sometimes receive academic credit for their work as part of a senior design class, but most of the work completed by other students is volunteer and extracurricular. Zavodney said that the new Urban Concept vehicle with its hybrid-electric drive train was created as a senior design project this year. He also said that participating in the event provides an excellent experience for students and future opportunities.

“The experience often becomes the focus of job interviews,” Zavodney stated. “We have many students who now work at Honda, and all the interviewers wanted to hear about was the senior project on which they worked for the Shell Eco-marathon competition.”

The Shell Eco-marathon competition challenges students to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car. Competitions are held around the globe, and the Americas event was held in Houston, Texas. Students design vehicles that run on energy sources such as solar, diesel, electric and alternative fuel methods.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,300 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Celebrating 125 years of education excellence, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at