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It’s been awhile, I know, but trust me, the Milwaukee School of Engineering Supermileage Vehicle team has not been sitting idle.  The team members have been working like maniacs to make sure their car is in great shape for the competition on June 10 and 11.

The carbon fiber body was completed a few weeks ago, but are you curious to find out how exactly those engineers made it happen?  Take a look at this video to watch how they did it!

The body is now fully assembled and the car is running.  Last weekend, the team spent a rainy Saturday in the rain testing the vehicle.  They put about fifteen (wet) miles on the car – talk about dedication!  While the testing team was outside, the rest of the crew was working on the electronic fuel injection (EFI) engine.

Testing

Testing

Testing

This week, the team is putting on the top of the car and will begin testing with the entire car.  After putting at least 30 more miles on the vehicle, the team will begin the final preparation stage to get ready for the competition.

Full body

Last weekend, the MSOE Supermileage Vehicle team had some big, important work to do: laying out the carbon fiber for the lower half of the body and the car frame (the piece the driver half sits/half lays on).  I know there are some pretty complex steps involved, so I’ll leave the explaining to the rest of the team (you can expect a video of the process soon!).  But essentially, three layers of carbon fiber are glued together and put in a giant vacuum sealer to cure for about four or five days.  And then, voila!  A gorgeous carbon fiber body!

Bottom body

There it is - the bottom of the body.

Not everyone was helping out with the body, though.  About half of the team was in the machine shop, working hard on the steering and other mechanical components of the vehicle.  I got a chance to speak with most of the team members; you can look forward to a video about the team in the future, too.

Frame

Everything is moving right along.

Frame

Not your typical driver's seat, huh?

But as the team was sitting around answering all my questions, something interesting came up.  One of the guys said he hoped people realize just how much time was put into this project.  Sven, team president, disagreed.

“Our time doesn’t matter to anyone except us,” Sven said.  “We know how much time we put in, but everyone else will just care about the finished product.”

His comment got me thinking.  Sven’s probably right; no one will care about the thousands of collective hours he and his teammates have put into this car (even though I definitely think they shoul).  But I don’t think that problem is singular to the MSOE SMV.  I think people tend to care more about the finished product and its attributes or flaws without realizing the labor and brainpower behind it.  Whether the product is a new car or a new computer or an innovative piece of technology, everything takes work.  Even the poor ideas or inventions often require copious amounts of effort.

I think if we can understand this, not just about SMVs but about everything new and different, we might be a little more accepting, a little more understanding.  Nothing happens overnight.  So if you want better cars, better computers, better anythings, acknowledge the work.  Acknowledge that people are trying and probably doing the best they can.  Do the best you can.  And put in the work, whatever else you do.

We are in the shop!  I’m still kinda itchy from the fiberglass!  Check out the video; you can learn how the team made the molds for the carbon fiber car body (thanks to the generosity of Midwest Composite Technologies of Hartland, Wisconsin!).

As you know, the team at MSOE is busy-busy-busy, working on their car.  They’ve been sanding like crazy carpenters to prepare for the completion of the carbon fiber mold.

Plug

All ready to go now...

Plug

Not quite done yet, but it's getting there!

Plug

Quality SMV bonding time.

Hopefully I’ll get some more accurate information about what they’re doing soon (can you tell I’m not the mastermind behind this project?).

Now, looking at some supermileage vehicles, they all tend to share a basic three-wheeled design.  Back in their heydays, microcars shared this design, too, aiming for efficiency in times of  limited fuel and parts resources.  We might not be driving around concept supermileage cars anytime soon, but they are onto something.  After all, that’s the whole idea, right?

Nitrobahn.com put out a list a little while ago of the top ten three-wheeled concept cars.  Like a lot of cars, you might not see these on the roadways in overwhelming numbers.  But they’re neat (and sometimes downright whacky, as you can see from the ones I posted below) to look at, and like SMVs and other concept vehicles, they’re coming up with alternative ways to get around.  We have a pretty standard idea of how we should get around – moms drive minivans, business execs drive sports cars, farmers drive trucks, and so on.  But as you take a look at some of these cars, try to rethink your ideas about transportation, even just a little bit.  The only way to move forward is to admit that some of the things we’re doing now aren’t working.  I remember looking up information for reports with encyclopedias back in elementary school (and considering that I’m a college senior, that wasn’t too long ago).  Today, it would be downright ludicrous to start my research in that fashion.  Gotta keep moving forward in all aspects of life.

Aptera 2e

Aptera 2e Electric

This aerodynamic car is called the Aptera 2e Electric.  It’s made to “glide like a bird” and work with the principles of aerodynamics to cut through the air effortlessly.  Its electric motor has some pull, going naught to sixty in under ten seconds.

Matus

This car is something totally different, that's for sure.

This car, developed by the company Matus Prochaczka, is called MAG and features all kinds of crazy stuff.  It runs on magnetic power and has an electric motor that has the same polarity as the road.  That is, assuming the roads are made of concrete with magnets stuck in them.  Maybe someday?

Volkswagon

I can picture this cruising the California highways.

Made by Volkswagen, this concept car is called the GX3.  It’s got a 125 hp engine that can get to sixty in under six seconds.  I have to admit, this might not be very practical for the Wisconsin winters (although I regularly see guys trotting to class in snowstorms wearing shorts).

I’m not going to lie, this week has been a little crazy for me.  But I’ve got some pretty cool stuff coming up, so let’s take a look ahead.

The MSOE SMV team is moving right along.   They’re on spring break now, but for the most dedicated team members, that only means more time to work on the car!  Right now, they’re working on completing the plugs for the molds for the carbon fiber body, which is a much more complicated process than I would have guessed.  Making a plug involves some super-nice wood, paint, and fiberglass, and that’s all before they have anything to do with the carbon fiber.  I’m going to be getting more info on all this soon, so bear with me.  Just trust that the end results will be pretty sweet.  They plan to lay out the fiberglass to finish the molds next week, coincidentally on the team president’s birthday (what better way to celebrate, right?).  For now, here’s a pic of the bottom plug.

Bottom mold

There's part of the mold!

Yesterday, I went to visit the University of Wisconsin Hybrid Vehicle team, thanks to Andrea Parins.  It was really great to learn about another alternative energy project, and the team was very helpful.  You can look forward to more information about them in the near future.

Today, resident mechanic Andy (yeah, the one with the cute wave) is coming over to work on some cars, so I might get to chat with him.  Also, soon I’ll be posting a video of the microcars that helped inspire the SMV project, hopefully with some commentary from their owner, Carlo (you might remember him from the other SMV pics).

Lastly, soon I’ll be meeting with Brian Morstad, a teacher at Middleton High School who launched that school’s Highmileage Vehicle (HMV) project a few years ago, which ultimately led to MSOE’s project.  He can give us lots of insight into what goes into this project and what makes it so great for college kids, the environment, and the world at large.

So stay tuned!  Or as Andy once said, “Keep your left foot out of it and keep it under 65.”  Well, unless you have a stick shift, and then please do clutch with your left!

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