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A team of students at UCR have been working on a vehicle to enter into the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, a competition which will be held from Thursday, April 27 through Sunday, April 30 at the Make the Future Festival held in Detroit, Michigan.

The annually held competition welcomes student entrants to work on creating and designing vehicles that are energy efficient and geared to travel the furthest distance using the least amount of energy. Last year’s competition garnered 124 vehicles from seven different countries and 1,100 participants, drawing a crowd of approximately 20,000.

UCR’s team this year is comprised of around 19 undergraduate students with one graduate student, all mostly in the fields of electrical engineering, computer science and mechanical engineering. The team received grants from both the Green Campus Action Plan and from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers to total an estimated $4,000 to fund the construction of the vehicle.

Ruben Ashikyan and Kevin Demesa, both fourth-year electrical engineering majors, currently serve as the project coordinators. The team is also overseen by Managing Director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy Alfredo Martinez-Morales.

“The idea is to compete by going from point A to point B with using as little power as possible,” explained Ashikyan. Demesa added on by saying, “So the goal is not to be fast; with this car, the goal is supposed to be how efficient can we be with electrical systems.”

In its current state, the vehicle consists of an electric motor that is directly connected to the wheel. Additionally, the vehicle features regenerative braking, an energy recovery specification which will revert energy produced when the vehicle is slowing down back to its lithium ion battery. Demesa also declared, “We’re going to attach solar panels on it, so when we’re driving it’ll charge as we go, but we also have a charging station we’re gonna build for the car. So, whenever we’re parked and during the day, it’ll follow the sun.”

The team has been working on the project since fall quarter, informally starting on the project itself around three years ago, according to Demesa. During the competition, the vehicle will be driven by Nathalie Rosales, a mechanical engineering student who is also part of the team.

When asked about the motive for joining the competition, Ashikyan responded, saying, “We’re taking part in the competition because we read about it and it was interesting, of course. And also we just wanted to build an electric car and energy efficiency was a little area that was appealing to us.”