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BYU Supermileage Team Exceeds 2000 mpg, Takes Top Spot at Shell Eco-marathon

Dr. Tree and Supermileage Team in Indianapolis with their winning vehicle.

After a miraculous win last year at the Shell Eco-marathon, the team worked to secure a record-breaking win for BYU.

The BYU Supermileage Team took home the first place award in Prototype Internal Combustion, creating a winning streak after last year's win at the Shell Eco-marathon with a recorded consumption rate of 2,340.77 mpg— 424.94 mpg better than the previous year.

The Supermileage Team won by a large margin— 662.44 mpg better than 2nd place's Team Cosmo. They also won an off-track award: the Technical Innovation Award supported by Southwest Research Institute.

The Shell Eco-marathon was held April 3-7 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Teams can build either a prototype car, which focuses on efficiency, or an urban concept car, which focuses on usability on the road. The vehicle competes in one of three fuel categories: internal combustion engine, hydrogen, or battery-electric.

While each competition brings its own challenges, the team passed the preliminary inspection and testing with flying colors. Nervous but cleared for competition, they got in line for their turn on the track.

However, when the green flag waved at the starting line, a fuse blew.

The Shell Eco-marathon teams face a myriad of technical issues leading up to the final run, so the BYU Supermileage students simply replaced the fuse and moved on.

The more pressing issue? Every replaced fuse blew shortly after. Nothing seemed to be working, and tensions rose as the team lost precious track time.

"I went around with another team member looking for fuses with higher capacity...we were just kind of scrambling," Cami Lim, a chemical engineering student on the team, said.

In true BYU fashion, the team gathered around the car and turned to prayer.

"It was nerve-wracking. It wasn't like we said this prayer and we're like, okay, now we know we're going to win,” said faculty mentor, Dr. Dale Tree. “No, it was, well, we'll go with this, our best option."

With strengthened resolve, the team obtained a time fuse and jumped back into the race. Unfortunately, the team was only able to complete two runs before having to head back to Provo because of the technical setbacks.

The team's goal was to hit 2000 mpg this year with their car in the category of Prototype Internal Combustion. The final result: 2340.77 mpg.

Coincidentally, the team's first run was their best run and the winning consumption rate of the competition.

"It was kind of amazing that we had our first attempt and we did well. I definitely think God was helping us," Lim said.

The team chose not to compete on Sundays and honored that commitment even after running out of track time on Saturday.

"We already knew coming in with the expectation [that] whatever miracles or whatever work we do, it's all over Saturday night," said Dino Christensen, the team's driver.

The decision not to compete on Sundays had already been made; there was no question about it even with Saturday's setbacks. If the team had stayed and competed on Sunday, they could have gotten a better score.

The team worked on the vehicle throughout the semester, but they grew closer together as race day neared.

"It wasn't really until competition that we were really able to interact with everybody and try and make sure that people were taken care of, that everybody was eating and warm because it was freezing," Lim explained.

After the competition, the team gathers for an end-of-semester party where they sign the lid of the car. Whether the team wins or loses, Dr. Tree noted that the team learns a lot from the hands-on experience the competition gives them.

He praised the team and its driver/president, Dino Christensen: "Dino is not the nervous type, and that's what makes him a good driver...he's confident, and he doesn't get rattled."

The Supermileage Club sponsors many of the students' senior capstone projects, providing one of many exciting opportunities for the mechanical engineering students at BYU to jump into the workforce.

A combined effort from the students resulted in the highest consumption rate the team has ever seen.

"All the work that we put in with the months before, it just, not relief, but like, almost like euphoric...and then seeing the result that we got was just ecstatic." Christensen said.

Next year, the team hopes to compete in a different category to further challenge themselves.