Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

IUPUI places first in LITECAR Challenge

April 21, 2015

Andres Tovar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Andres Tovar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

A Purdue School of Engineering and Technology faculty member and his graduate students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis won the $60,000 grand prize in a competition to design a safe ultra-light vehicle.

The winning design, submitted by Andres Tovar, an assistant mechanical engineering professor and the students, was selected from among more than 250 conceptual designs submitted in the Lightweighting Technologies Enabling Comprehensive Automotive Redesign (LITECAR) Challenge. Their design was selected by a panel of experts in materials, crashworthiness, structures, manufacturing and safety. Students involved included Prathamesh Chaudhari: Computer Aided Design, Nishanth Bhimireddy: Crash simulations, Kai Liu: Structural optimization, and Fabian Lischke: Additive manufacturing.

The competition, sponsored by Local Motors, in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, was described as “setting up the challenge and letting the imagination begin” to develop innovative ideas by using novel material technologies, structural designs, energy absorbing materials and unique methods of manufacturing to reduce vehicle curb weight while maintaining current U.S. automotive safety standards.

Competition officials said the grand prize submission delivered “pretty much the entire package we were looking for,” by effectively creating an exoskeleton over an aluminum frame to protect vehicle occupants.

The proposed vehicle design, called the Aerodynamic Water Droplet with Strong Lightweight Bone Structure, has the outer shape of a water droplet with an embedded trabecular bone-like structure, or spaceframe. The envelope's water droplet shape provides a low drag coefficient, while the spaceframe layout is designed to provide the mechanical strength and energy absorption capabilities required to protect the occupant in the event of a collision.

The envelope's material is a polymer composite, which provides desirable characteristics of a monocoque design. The spaceframe's material is functionally graded cellular aluminum alloy. The layout of the proposed spaceframe is designed using a specialized and unique topology optimization algorithm for crashworthiness.

“LITECAR has been critically important to Local Motors because it has stretched the boundaries of the world’s largest open-hardware innovation community to include a focus on the subject of weight reduction,” said John Rogers Jr., co-founder and chief executive officer of Local Motors.

About Local Motors
Local Motors is a technology company that designs, builds, and sells vehicles. From bytes-to-bits, the Local Motors platform combines global co-creation with local micro-manufacturing to bring hardware innovations, like the world’s first 3D-printed car, to market at unprecedented speed. Discover more at