Whenever the LA Auto Show Design Challenge takes place, motoring enthusiasts keep an eager eye out to see who the winner is. This year it was the Mazda R&D team who has managed to beat some rather stiff opposition with their creative and innovative design.
The theme for the 2008 design challenge was posed in the form of a question, namely: “How will auto racing look in the year 2025?” The resulting entries were amazing, but none quite as impressive as the Mazda entry. The team created a super-skinny, super-slick, three-wheeled vehicle that uses a patented electronic tire system to power it. The system makes use of an electro-conductive road surface from which the tires draw their energy. The concept is not new and has already been proposed for commercial roads as part of the Mazda Blue-Sky initiative. It is capable of enabling the vehicle to achieve speeds of up to 250 mph with absolutely no harmful emissions. Environmentally-friendly, fast and innovative – this is exactly the sort of thing that judges were looking for.
The Environmentally-friendly Mazda Kann definitely takes auto racing to a whole new level. Not only does it propose an entirely new way for a vehicle to be supplied by efficient power, but it also looked into the way that motor racing is typically done. The Mazda Kann team suggested that the sport could possibly change with up to thirty team members racing at the same time instead of just having one or two individuals. The idea is that the team could work together, using certain formations to give them an aerodynamic advantage and increase their speed.
The LA Auto Show Design Challenge saw a number of excellent entries from big auto manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, Toyota, GM, Honda, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Audi. However in the end it was the Mazda concept that won the 2008 design challenge. According to the director of Design Los Angeles and partner in The Design Academy Inc., Chuck Pelly, “The scope of entries this year was very impressive and in the end it came down to which team had the most innovative and artistic design that could go beyond the expectations and challenges of racing today. Mazda’s designers created an optimistic vision of 2025 and ultimately brought unique styling back to motor sports.” When one looks at the finished design, it is easy to see why the Mazda R&D team was the final winner.
Every two years a number of ‘special’ cars are shipped to Australia where they participate in a race known as the Panasonic World Solar Challenge. The race sees these cars cross the Australian continent with only one source of fuel – the sun.
Building a car that is capable of completing the 3,000 km journey from Darwin to Adelaide in dry, hot, dusty conditions powered only by solar power, can prove to be quite a challenge. Special teams need to be assembled to accomplish the task and Toronto team Blue Sky Solar Racing is constantly striving to attract world class engineers, environmentalists and scientists to help them to accomplish this goal. In the 2007 challenge, the team managed to come first amongst fellow Canadians and it was fifth overall in its class. Now Blue Sky Solar Racing is looking ahead to the 2009 race with plenty of ambition. Not only do they want to improve on their previous performance, but according to Andreas Marouchos, their singular mission is “to demonstrate the viability of alternative energy technology and the practical benefits of a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems.”
A constant supply of new blood is supplied in the form of the University of Toronto as a number of team members involved in the design of the vehicles are often first or second year engineering students. The team also uses the Dassault SystSmes Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools. These include the ENOVIA SmarTeam data management technology and the CATIA virtual 3D design software. In order to speed up the design for the 2009 car, the team plans to use ENOVIA SmarTeam to work on complete assemblies in context. This will save time because it means they will be able to look at the bigger picture without having to focus so intently on the individual parts. Being able to look at the bigger picture also means that ways of reducing vehicle weight and so increase speed will also be easier to spot.
The final result is a great team working on a great concept car at a fantastic pace. The students that get involved with the program will get invaluable hands-on experience in automotive design and the software used in the design process as well as the opportunity to work alongside some really experienced industry experts. All this goes a long way toward finding more efficient ways to design new car parts. Heads will definitely turn when the Blue Sky Solar Racing team takes part in the 2009 Panasonic World Solar Challenge.
A number of local car manufacturers that have been involved in NASCAR for a long time are now looking to downsize their racing ventures because of financial woes. One might think that this would see more variety hit the race track, but instead it seems it may be the start of hard times ahead for NASCAR.
Apparently representatives from several overseas car manufacturing companies have said that they are not interested in getting involved in NASCAR races, such as the Daytona 500, in the near future. Volkswagen, for instance seemed more concerned about environmental concerns than getting involved with big NASCAR races. They commented that they were not at all interested in investing their money in gasoline-powered racing at this point in time, but also noted that if NASCAR allowed turbos and diesels to race in their series they might start to consider it. With the company set to open a new manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, it would seem that getting involved in big local motor sports is the next logical step. But instead the company seems dead-set against it, citing the fact that it is not as financially viable as other forms of racing. Motosports manager for VW America Clark Campbell noted that their entire involvement in the Jetta TDI Cup amounts to only about “two weeks worth of budget for a NASCAR team.” Hence, their efforts will continue to focus on the Jetta TDI Cup series while they work hard at tripling their current share in the U.S. car market during the next ten years.
Honda, on the other hand, is currently the only >car manufacturer involved in the IndyCar Series. But that might soon change. Despite the fact that the company has enjoyed a steady rate of sales in the U.S., they do not share the same sentiments as NASCAR when it comes to developing racecar technology. Honda wants to use what they learn on the track in the cars they put on display in the show room, but NASCAR wants to keep all the cars on a level playing field by restricting technology. Hence Honda is not particularly impressed with the NASCAR racing situation at present.
Meanwhile Nissan seems to be harping on their racing heritage, saying that they have always been involved in championship road racing and so it seems that they will stick to that form of racing in the years to come. Of course there are many other car manufacturers that also need to decide whether or not to get involved in NASCAR racing, but if the trend continues, fans could be at a loss for good racing in the near future.
The words “auto racing” and “environmentally friendly” do not usually coincide too much, but it seems that is about to change with the launch of the new American Le Mans Green ChallengeTM series. The race will be both environmentally conscious and high performance – thus blending these two spheres in one enjoyable event.
The American Le Mans Series has just launched the first ever Green ChallengeTM. The race, which is set to take place at Road Atlanta on October 4th, has the complete backing of three major organizations, namely: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International. Representatives from these different entities have already spent ample time and energy in conjunction with members of the Argonne National Laboratory to develop the formula that will be required for race car competitors to win the new environmentally-friendly race. Cars that race in the Green ChallengeTM will have to meet the standard car performance, environmental impact and fuel efficiency criteria that have been set for the event. The energy expenditure, greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum displacement of the vehicles will also be assessed.
So just where do you find cars to compete with when you’re facing this sort of strict criteria? The American Le Mans Series already has four classes of technologically advanced race cars that are surprisingly green. Each of the cars runs on a ‘street legal’ version of sulfur-free diesel fuel known as E10 (aka cellulosic E85). These fuels are almost identical to those found at the average fuel station, which just goes to show that you can go green and enjoy high performance. The fuel is essentially made from organic refuse such as wood waste or citrus remains and is clearly highly effective in powering automobiles. The Green ChallengeTM is not only proving that green is possible, hopefully it will show that it can be better too. The race is also the perfect platform for automobile manufacturers to test new ideas and bring about greener solutions to the global threat posed by automobile emissions. The media attention received by the race will also serve to boost green technological developments and hopefully stimulate even more interest in taking road transport to the next level.
Some of the most brilliant and dedicated engineers are recruited for motorsport teams. Their knowledge and endless number of plans to increase productivity while decreasing cost, is invaluable to a motorsport team. And it is because of the engineering masterminds that are found here that the industry was approached and challenged with creating fuels that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Alternative fuels are definitely the way forward and realistic planning for the future, and solutions found on the racing circuits of the world, could result in the next fuel at the local gas station.
Because racing cars, and more specifically Formula One cars, are dependent on fuel efficiency, the circuits are the best place to test new and advanced fuels. If a fuel is developed that is more environmentally friendly and is proved to work for Formula One cars, the public will not hesitate to convert to the better fuel. All leading engineers, motorsport industry members and the public are in agreement that exploring non-fossil fuel based products are where the solutions to the fuel efficiency problems lie.
Many racing teams of all divisions have shown an interest in using greener, or environmentally friendly, technology, and with their support, the face of fuel might get the opportunity to evolve and improve. Establishments such as Green MotorSport have joined racing teams in the search and production of renewable energy. Discoveries made on the racing circuit have led to the United Kingdom authorities aiming to have a minimum of five percent of its public vehicles using Bio Ethanol fuel. It might sound like a small percentage, but when looking at vehicle emissions, it would be similar to removing a million vehicles from the public transport system.
Even the most insignificant effort to reduce carbon emissions (which increases Global Warming) is already a positive step towards fuel efficiency and a healthier environment. The less toxic and damaging vapors and fumes that are released into the atmosphere, the greater chance the world has for survival. As the roar of the racing engines fire up for another heart stopping season of innovation, progress and discovery, everyone will be patiently waiting and looking at the motorsport industry for answers to the future of fuel efficiency.