A Biodiesel Mini Baja Vehicle and Student Competition 2008-01-1293
The SAE Mini Baja® competition is an extremely popular design competition that focuses on the design of an off-road vehicle for performance and cost-of-production. A 2006-07 EPA P3 Phase I grant was awarded to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to convert a vehicle created for the SAE Mini Baja® competition to a biodiesel vehicle. Because of the major size difference in the diesel engine chosen compared to the much smaller gasoline engine, conversion of the Baja vehicle required considerably more effort than expected. While many mechanical aspects of the bio-diesel conversion were more complicated than expected, the students were successful in creating bio-diesel and in modifying important vehicle systems. The students also gained a substantial understanding of the economical and environmental aspects of alternative fuel generation. Through the conversion experience gained at UAB, the rules for a new competition were explored. A new competition is proposed would that resemble and compliment (but not replace) the SAE Mini Baja® competition. The proposed competition would focus on balancing vehicle performance and the production of bio-derived fuels. To capture the student's fascination with automotive design and racing, the new competition would still employ elements of mechanical design for “off-road” performance. However, the competition winner will be the team that balances performance with the most cost-effective and convenient methods of producing bio-derived fuels to operate the vehicle. The overall cost of fuel production, the quality of fuel created for the competition, and the net atmospheric carbon dioxide release would be major aspects of scoring. Because of the vehicle design, fuel system design, and pollution control aspects, the competition would be an excellent opportunity for multidisciplinary projects involving mechanical, chemical, and environmental engineering students.