Seven Clark School student teams build E-bikes that can travel 125 miles on a single charge – powering past the current range on the market
An electric bike, often referred to as an e-bike, is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor. E-bikes look and handle like standard bikes but provide the benefit of electric assist. For most e-bikes, riders can expect to travel 20–50 miles on a single charge; some pricey units can do 70 miles.
This October, dozens of A. James Clark School of Engineering students attempted to shatter the average range of an e-bike by participating in the college’s 125-Mile EBikes! Design Competition, offered as part of the Clark School’s 125th anniversary this year.
The competition started in Fall 2018 with more than 30 student teams from nearly all engineering disciplines—and even some students from other colleges as well, such as the Smith School of Business and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences—registered to attempt to build such a bike. The challenge required teams to design, build, and test an e-bike that weighs less than 30 kilograms and has a range of at least 125 miles on a single battery charge. Teams acquired faculty and staff advisors and submitted proposals to be considered for subsidy grants to allow the teams to put their ideas into practice. The funds were offered under the Clark School’s Mpact Challenge Projects, which seek to develop solutions to exciting engineering problems or to design and build novel products that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. This challenge was established thanks to support from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation as part of Building Together: An Investment for Maryland. Ten teams received grants based upon their initial concepts judged by a panel of faculty experts.
Throughout the year, the teams perfected their designs and, on October 11 and 12, seven teams competed in the two-day event on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The teams raced their bikes without external battery charging and traveled indoors on bicycle trainers for 50 miles without pedal assist and 50 miles with pedal assist. The trainers were programmed to simulate a route to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and back to the University of Maryland, College Park. For the last 25 miles, cyclists traveled under real-world conditions and navigated a route on the UMD campus. The results were surprisingly close: the difference between the winning bike and the second place was just three minutes in nearly 5 ½ hours total time.
The winning teams received trophies and cash prizes thanks to a generous donation from the Jimmy Lin Foundation.
The vision for the competition was to showcase the creativity, resourcefulness, and design acumen of the students of the Clark School.
“Electric powered personal transportation systems are very much part of our future,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor R.D. Gomez, the faculty proponent of the challenge. “Through this competition, we enabled our engineering students to understand what it takes to push this technology forward and, in the process, experience the pleasure of achieving what has not been done before.”
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