Queen’s Fuel Cell Team wins category honours at Shell Eco-marathon

Posted on June 01, 2016

Student crew dares and succeeds against the odds

Matthew Swift

ENGINEERING THE FUTURE: Matthew Swift, technical director of QFCT, says he is looking forward to another year of participating in the Shell Eco-marathon.

The Queen’s Fuel Cell Team (QFCT) scored a win at the annual Shell Eco-marathon in Detroit, Apr 24, with a last-minute victory in the hydrogen fuel cell prototype category. This is the first year QFCT participated in this competition.

“We were so excited to get the winning score,” says QFCT technical director, Matthew Swift. “It was our last opportunity to get our final run in.”

Participating teams each get four chances to finish a ten-lap course as efficiently as possible. A device attached to the machines measures exactly how much hydrogen is expended. Whichever team uses the least hydrogen over the ten laps is the winner. It was a rocky start for QFCT. Technical problems prevented them from finishing in each of their first three attempts. But after some on-the-fly problem solving, the QFCT vehicle made it all the way and earned the highest score on the last try.

The QFCT vehicle is split into two sections: the driver compartment and the technical compartment. The technical compartment houses the hydrogen fuel cell, the wiring and other essential components.

QFCT Vehicle

VICTORY LAP: The winning QFCT vehicle beat out competitors in the final test to earn top spot in its category.

This year, the Queens’s Eco Vehicle Team contributed an unused frame to the QFCT build. Project funding came from a combination of sponsorships and grants with the lion’s share coming from The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Other funding came from a Dragons’ Den style competition called Gaels’ Den, which is run by Queen’s Alumni. The team only had one month to design and build the vehicle.

“I thought it was a totally awesome experience,” says Swift, “I’m really glad that I did it, because you learn what it’s like to be in a management position and get actual, real world experience.”

Swift is looking to work with fuel cells in the future and this competition was a chance for him and his team members to look at real world solutions for energy efficiency problems.