For over one year we have worked hard all day and all night on eLi15. We have spent many nights in the workshop aiming for the 1stplace at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2015.
Of course, our success in Colomiers has given a great lift for our hopes. The result should be well known: the overall-win in the prototype category and the Grand Prix, which we have won on the track as well as 3 Off-Track Awards for design, motorization and the technical innovation.
Quick we became secret favorites for the Shell Eco-marathon Europe- so other teams told us, which would be just one week ahead. But we have known that we will find different conditions in Rotterdam. A different regalement forced us to use a self-developed motor control unit as well as different solar cells, because only 20% of the consumed motor energy is allowed to be provided by the solar cells.
Thankfully, we got three Audi g-tron to go on the journey to Rotterdam with a maximum of comfort and economy.
Very early before the competition the tasks in Rotterdam were well distributed among the team members. So the organization on the camping site and at the paddock could be finished in a minimum of time. The whole team was now waiting for the technical inspection on Tuesday. Because of the great number of participating teams the technical inspection always took a lot of time and so it did also this year.
We just had to fix 4 minor issues to pass the inspection on Wednesday morning and received the desirable sticker which meant the start permission for the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2015. The rest of the day we used to adjust running gear and powertrain parameters and tested those configurations on a test court. We could not noticed any new failures or unexpected behavior of eLi15 and so we were ready for the test runs on the next day.
For Thursday two test runs were planned and both of our drivers should finish a complete run to get a feeling for the track. After two times of 39 minutes we had two almost identic results on the scoreboard: 855km/kWh. A very promising value. One Bavarian team member says: “Passt scho!”, which represent the teams’ positive opinion. But still, the TUfast Eco Team wanted more. Now, everybody brooded where we could improve our efficiency. We want to find the 1% percent of efficiency which could help us to improve our result. Adrenalin and concentration let no space for spreading tiredness and so we did everything to get the best from eLi15. We worked until the paddock closed.
After two reliable runs and promising values on Thursday, we tried out the modifications made on eLi15 the evening before, in the test run on Friday morning. But due to problems with the changed shaft to chain connection we had to quit the run just some minutes after start. The first competition run was dated for Friday afternoon so we had enough time for fixing the problem. After some quick repair work we could go on the start for the run as the third team of the prototype category. Under good conditions we started the first out of four attempts: A year of hard work and a lot of invested time were now evaluated.
Brisk trade on the radio mirrored what was happening in the heads of our team member. Every single detail was noticed by the track guards and mentioned on the radio to give the starter team a detailing insight of the events on the track. The information was analyzed and the strategy was optimized. The concentration was on its peak. After 6 of 10 laps, it suddenly happened. „We had to quit the run. Please come back to the start.” Silence on all channels.
What had happened? Because of the hurry between the run in the morning and in the afternoon a cable was not fixed as it should. The vibrations and bumps during the run lead to a contact between the cable and the rear tire and the isolation was rubbed off. This lead to a short circuit and the whole electronics was switched off.
Instead of having a rage attack or feeling sorrow, we believed in eLi15 and improved our wiring harness. From now on we could ensure that we will not have a blackout again.
The launch window for the second attempt for the prototypes opened on Saturday noon. And so, we started with our improved eLi15, again, as one of the first teams. The conditions were not the best. The track was wet, the sky was cloudy and, in addition, a lot gusts of wind. Because of the weather we had some problems with the radio, too. After 39 minutes we finished the second attempt with our first official result of 722km/kWh. Still, this was sufficient for a top 5 placement. Of course, the bad result was mainly caused by the conditions, but, why we should waste some time and so every single part was inspected in terms of its efficiency. What happened on the track, meanwhile? The weather switched, the sun was coming out and the track dried up. Our toughest opponent the “Ruppin Jet” went on track and could profit from the conditions. The result speaks volume. With a value above the 800km/kWh mark, they were leading the prototype category… Should we go on track, too? We had a fiery discussion either we should go for the third attempt now or not. The weather forecast predict better weather for Sunday. Should we take the risk? We did. And we invest the time to optimize eLi15 on our test bench. The same day we received a visit from the Design Award jury. More than a half an hour we were honored to show them every single detail of our eLi15 until they left our paddock with very good impressions. Afterwards we head on with our tasks, again, until the paddock closed.
From 9 a.m. until 12:30 the track would be open on Sunday for the last time for the prototypes at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2015. This is a small period of time if you want to finish two runs. So we had to queue up very early. Therefore, a special force team of the TUfast Eco Team got up early and joined the queue at 5 a.m. as the third prototype team. This was necessary to finish the third attempt as early as possible to get back in line for the fourth attempt.
The sky was blue and the track has not seen any rain in the night. Perfect conditions. Just 5 minutes after the track opened, eLi15 crossed the start line as one of the first vehicles this morning. This was important because little traffic meant we could drive the ideal line and get as much sun as possible. From now on the time was running against us. 39 minutes later we finished the run without any problems, but we had another problem. The queue. It was getting longer and longer. Where we will land in the queue and will we back on the start line before the launch window closes?
We absolutely want to go for the fourth attempt. We had to try. So, right after eLi15 crossed the finish line we put her back in the queue, even before we received the result for this run.
Some moments later the result was published. 766km/kWh, a great improvement, which result in the second place. But we expected more. So what were the reasons for this result? It was early in the morning and the sun was still low and therefore lot of shadow on track. Furthermore, the angle of incident solar radiation was not optimal for our solar cells.
Now it is up to the last run. The tire pressure was checked the batteries were exchanged and the wheel case mounting had to be repaired because it was broken directly after the third attempt while entering the fuelling tank. Only 30 minutes were left until the track closes. Are we able to fix the problem and go for the fourth attempt? No more failures were allowed. The atmosphere was tense.
At 11:30 eLi15 was ready again and started just a few minutes before the launch window closes. Everybody knows this run could be legendary as eLi15 start rolling for the last and decisive 16.117 kilometer. But what happened meanwhile? The “Ruppin Jet” could slightly improve its result again. The tension soared again.
Just a few laps were left. eLi15 crossed the line and a few minutes later the information: The run was valid. All eyes were on the scoreboard and then the TUfast Eco Team TU Munich was appeard on the first place with a result of 863,1km/kWh.
All the hard work and the sleepless nights were now paid off. For the first time, since its founding in 2009, the TUfast Eco Team is the winner of the Shell Eco-marathon Europe.
Tired faces due to the short nights in Rotterdam were washed away as TUfast Eco team was announced at the award ceremony. Finally, the moment was there the TUfast Eco team on the very top of the podium in the Battery Electric prototype category. Beer showers, cup kisses and chorus: “That’s what a winner looks like!”
Unbelievable, but there was even more for us. eLi15 assert against 197 other participating teams and received the Design award. Once more the emotions went high on the stage and the laudatory speech have made some eyes wet.
An unforgettable week. An unbelievable month. The best season ending you could ever wish.
The hard work of the previous seasons has paid off and was has been rewarded with 2 victories in the Battery Electric Prototype category and in sum 4 Off-Track awards and the “Grand Prix” prize for the prototypes at the Educ Eco.
The entire TUfast Eco Team express thanks with those 7 prizes to the founders of the TUfast Eco team, the mentors at the Technical University of Munich, all workshop masters and all university workshops as well as the TUfast Racing team for the sound cooperation and especially all of our industrial partners.
Without your trust in our team, our dream could not have been possible. Spontaneous production of parts, support to the very last detail at nearly all day- or night times as well as precision up to the smallest detail were the key for the shared success. Those awards belong to all of us!