Shakedown II, Here We Come….

Uncategorized — admin @ 2:53 pm

With less than a week until we are back at MIS for round two of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize Competition, things are really heating up back at Cornell. As our battery system is shipping back from the manufacturer, RedShift is being completely re-wired with waterproof connectors provided by Molex. We have re-made several body panels and have mounted them in a much more reliable way. By the end of the week, we hope to bring these panels to Morrisville State College’s Auto Body Program for some light bondo and re-painting.

We are working on uploading some of our footage from Shakedown I, so check the youtube page soon for some new videos!

Current Events in Energy Efficient Vehicles

Uncategorized — admin @ 12:53 am

Recently, President Obama released a new directive regarding improvements in fuel efficient technologies and standards.  We’re all extremely excited about this news, which was published on May 21, 2010.  The full version of the notice can be viewed here on the White House’s official website.

President Obama has announced that his administration will push to help develop and improve infrastructure needed to improve fuel efficiency, thereby reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as well as reducing our carbon footprint.  The President has also explained the need for a reduction in the greenhouse gases emitted from passenger vehicles and a new generation of fuel efficient vehicles.

This last point is a goal we are also driving towards and which our success will help achieve.

With the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there is an even greater need now to reduce and soon halt offshore drilling.  We appreciate the President’s support of alternative fuel research and proposition to overhaul the standards for new vehicles.

Traditionally, only about 15% of the fuel you put into your car is used for powering the vehicle and the rest of its useful functions, with the remaining 85% being lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies and during idling.  However, new models rolling out into the showrooms and onto the highway are making use of new technologies to improve fuel efficiency.

The U.S. Department of Energy has posted a handy chart on their website which you can view here that explains the different types of energy and transmission technologies in use today and each modification’s average efficiency increase.

We’re doing our best and pushing our limits even further now that the shakedown has already started.  Despite a few setbacks, we remain confident and focused.  It is such an exhilarating feeling that we have reached this point already and have only a few months more to go.

The prizes will be awarded in September, and should we be the recipients, the prize money would go straight to Cornell University.  The details on how the money would be split within the university are still unclear, however every penny will assuredly be passed on to our university.

Development of the Redshift

Uncategorized — admin @ 9:49 pm

Before we got to the fun of cutting and welding, the team worked out several different drafts of what the car might look like.

In the Spring semester of 2008, this was our final model:

The Redshift has the chassis of a Subaru Sambar, which is a type of microvan, and the body of a Honda Civic.  The Civic’s cabin was sliced lengthwise and widthwise to make it shorter and slimmer, then welded back together to form a smaller body and fitted to the Sambar’s chassis.

Welding the lengthwise halves back together, February 2009:

Cornell 100+ MPG also presented the Redshift at the New York State fair in Syracuse last year, drawing an extremely diverse crowd with the partly finished vehicle.

The Redshift, designed to be a two door coupe, would seat four passengers and have 10 cubic feet of cargo space.  It was outfitted with a UQM Power Phase 125 motor which could hit a peak of 167 hp (125kW) and a 1.4L Volkswagen TDI engine, which runs on B20 Biodiesel (20% Biodiesel 80% conventional Diesel).  The battery pack is made up of lithium iron cells manufactured by Chang’s Ascending Energy.  The batteries, with a capacity of 15.5 KWh and weighing in at 500lbs create no heat generation issues, are relatively cheap to manufacture, and provide high bursts of energy.

By this time, the Redshift was estimated to achieve over 100 MPGe, could accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in 5.5 seconds, and run for 60 miles on electric power only, and 200 miles total.

On November 7th and 8th of 2009, the Redshift was taken out for its first test drives.  A video of the test drives can be found here:

For the body panels, the main materials sponsor is Amber Composites, located in the UK with General Plastics Corp also donating the foam used for making the panel molds.  The Cornell Sailing team also played a major part in the fabrication and design of the body panels.

We began milling the foam late in the summer of 2009, then spent the entire fall semester sanding, painting, and prepping the female “plugs” used to layup the final panels which are made out of fiberglass.  The last panels were completed in late February.  They are extremely lightweight and strong and also more affordable than carbon fiber.

The team also partnered with the Morrisville State College Autobody Program in creating a transition panel that we were not able to fabricate ourselves.  The panel is made of metal and is attached directly to the back of civic passenger compartment.  The students and faculty from the Autobody Program also completed the bodywork, smoothing out seams, and removing any dents other other imperfections, and painted the vehicle.

And the final product…

April, 2010:

The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Part of the Cornell 100+ MPG Team

Uncategorized — admin @ 9:19 pm

Simply put being part of PIAXP is AWESOME.  It is not only exciting that we are actually building a car that gets 100+ MPG, but we are also designing a car that is commercially viable. Who knows, a car and complimenting technology designed by Cornell students could end up on the market!

Being on the Cornell 100+ MPG team is also one of the most fulfilling opportunities to gain hands on experience in engineering and apply what we have learned in the classroom.  As a student majoring in Operations Research Engineering, I was able to utilize course work skills such as optimal scheduling through Gantt Charts, modeling and simulating different configurations of a mechanical component before the team actually builds it, and even basic accounting.

Our favorite part about being on the team is spending time working hard with other really cool engineers. Sure we’re all talented individuals, but the group is a blast to hang out with on the weekends. Pulling all nighters for a technical deliverable is certainly a form of bonding time, but so are the socials thrown after we passed a TD =). And like all hungry engineers, there’s no better way to cure 8 food-less hours in the High Volt Lab than a barbecue picnic with burgers on the grill and Ithaca’s finest brew.

Another really cool thing about being a part of this team is sharing our knowledge and teaching others how to be more environmentally aware. As a university organization, part of our innate duty is to educate the community, whether it’s on campus or in Ithaca, about sustainable transportation. We are especially looking forward to showing off the car on Ho Plaza on Earth Day where we will be informing the student body on sustainable practices (as well as showcasing our new paint job!). These are just some of the many great benefits of being a part of PIAXP and a Cornell Engineering Project Team.

What come with any project are the challenges. Day to day drags mostly consist of balancing class work while completing our tasks for the project. While many members take the project team for credit, we often spend considerably more time (ie: 20+ hours) a week working on the car than in a similar class.  Sacrifices (in terms of grades, hours of sleep, number of friends [just kidding about the last part]) are a dime a dozen but more importantly, we enjoy our work. Also as with any type of team, raising money is always a challenge. Given the recent downturn, finding a large corporate sponsor is akin to finding a hotelie in the library on a Friday night (ie: almost impossible).

From the Cradle

Uncategorized — cornellaxp @ 1:58 pm

Before we began working on the Redshift, the team began with a modified 92 Geo Metro as our test mule.

Mule cars, also known as development mules or test mules, are usually older model vehicles that are equipped with new components for testing.

The Geo Metro prior to any alterations:

The thin red lines in the photo denote dimensions of the car after measurements were taken for the decals.  The design team then developed a few concept sketches for the vehicle, incorporating our visual identity, which was at that point, the CUAXP logo shown here:

February 2008

Mule car

The mule car was gutted, emptied of its seats, linings, and other inner furnishings to make room for the test components that would be mounted inside for testing.

The modified Geo Metro was fitted with a stock 3-Cyl gasoline engine, a 24 kW Azure Dynamics motor mounted in the rear, and a 180V lead acid battery system (courtesy of Exide) set up within the middle of the cabin.

The Azure AC24 was originally used for vehicle drive, but because it lacked sufficient power, we then acquired the UQM PowerPhase 125 to drive the car, which is the motor now in the final car.  The Azure AC55 generator was bought to convert the diesel into electricity.  Although it met our needs in terms of power and price, the size and weight did not fit our qualifying vehicle.  Finally, the team was sponsored by Evo Electric (, who lent the team a Pancake-style Motor, which was much smaller and more efficient.

The vehicle was a through-the-road parallel hybrid, meaning both the gas engine and electric motor were capable of turning the car’s wheels, but because it lacked linkages to match the different RPMs, it is better to use each system separately instead of together.  This is done by either putting the rear in neutral while the gas is driving the front, or the front in neutral while the electric is driving the rear.

We also raced the Geo Metro in the Green Grand Prix, an 80 mile race held every year in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York.

At the start of the rally:

After successfully completing all testing with the mule car, we were then able to proceed with the fabrication of our PIAXP race vehicle, the Redshift.

Our Team

Uncategorized — cornellaxp @ 6:24 pm

Welcome to our blog! We are the first registered university team competing in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize Competition and the only university team competing in the mainstream class. Unlike many other teams, our organization was founded specifically for the purpose of competiting in the PIAXP competition. Founded through Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management and the brainchild of Phillip Bell MBA ‘07 the team included two other members, Joseph Sullivan MAE ’07 and Kyle Rasmussen MBA ’08 in December of 2006. What started out as a small entrepreneurship project quickly burgeoned into a full fledged university project team.

With the help of Professors John R. Callister and Albert R. George, the group grew to 40 members by the Fall semester of 2007, 90 members in the Spring of 2009, and is currently made of 55 undergraduate and graduate students from six of Cornell University’s seven colleges including the College of Engineering, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the College of Human Ecology, and the Johnson Graduate School of Management. We also have a large faculty advisory board including Professor Jimmy Chang as well as two visiting academic fellows Professor Zhong Jiong Yang and Professor Bo Yang.

The university isn’t new to the whole sustainable transportation concept. Sometime back in 2000 a group of engineering students built a plug-in hybrid vehicle, similar to our car. Many other groups such as the Solar Decathalon Team and Sustainability Hub are also dedicated to solving climate change problems.

Where did Redshift come from? We polled 150 students across the campus, asking questions such as their favorite color, if they drove an automatic or manual car, and their average MPG then plugged the results into a proprietary name generating algorithm that spat out Redshift. If only.

The name has a much humbler origin. Our ever so creative team members pitched names such as “Ezra” (after Ezra Cornell, the university’s namesake), “Red Rocket”, and “Ion”, until Redshift simply got the most votes. It refers to the phenomenon in physics where the light seen coming from an object moving away from the observer is proportionally shifted to appear “redder” ( More importantly, it also refers to one of the university’s colors. Go Big Red!

Here we go!!

Uncategorized — cornellaxp @ 9:19 pm

We’re 38 days away from competition. Head on over to for more updates. This blog will be updated soon!