Mater Dei Supermileage 2 have demonstrated fresh thinking and precise execution to secure the 2020 Americas Off-track Award for Technical Innovation with their innovative airless tire and wheel combination.
About the Technical Innovation Award
Sponsored by Southwest Research Institute, the Off-Track Award for Technical Innovation recognizes outstanding technical ingenuity along with optimal use of new materials, components and inventions in their drive train, chassis, body, instrumentation and tires.
What they achieved
The Mater Dei Supermileage 2 team determined a need to minimize the size of the tire and wheel combination to capitalize on lighter rotational weight, improved aerodynamics and reliability advantages. By bonding the tire tread directly onto a rim surface, the smaller diameter was estimated to reduce energy requirements to get the car moving, as well as reduce the energy lost when stopping.
The team also considered possible downsides, such as a higher rolling resistance, but ultimately felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. The change to the tire diameters meant that the team could enclose the wheels within the body of the vehicle and improve the overall aerodynamics of the car’s body. To solve for rolling resistance, the team opted for polyurethane as a synthetic alternative to rubber for the tread material.
With the lack of air cushion in the tires, the next challenge the team solved for was vertical motion due to a bumpier ride, where energy would be lost to hysteresis, or heat generated by the flexing poly material covering the wheels. To help eliminate this effect, the team added suspension to lessen the amount of un-sprung weight and reduce bouncing and hysteresis losses. Upgrades to the wheels have since included adding more grip, softening the ride and creating a flatter profile to improve oscillating time.
Overall, the Mater Dei Supermileage 2 team demonstrated great ingenuity and innovation of tire and wheel design, which could potentially be used for road vehicles in the future.
What inspired the team to succeed?
Driven by the pursuit of knowledge, the Mater Dei Supermileage 2 team relish the opportunity to learn new workshop skills and drive innovation within their own vehicle design. The team members draw inspiration from several different groups, from entrepreneurial grandparents and parents, to innovative public figures such as Elon Musk, and rely on teamwork, a willingness to take risks and a collective never-give-up attitude as the biggest keys to success.
Why the judges believed they deserve to win?
Lead Judge: Steve Marty, VP Fuels and Lubricants Research, Southwest Research Institute
“This team optimized four wheels for weight reduction, frictional grip, rolling resistance and aerodynamics. These wheels have been in use for two seasons, with ongoing enhancements as race experience was obtained. These tire and wheel combinations have the potential for various real-world applications and energy savings.”
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