Duke Electric Vehicles will be featured in a commercial during an episode of the NBC show “Heroes Reborn.”
Earlier this year, DEV—a student-run group which builds efficient electric vehicles—won the Technical Innovation Award for its carbon fiber vehicle body at the Shell Eco-marathon, an international energy-efficient vehicle design contest. The award got the group noticed by Shell and as a result a few team members had the opportunity to appear in a commercial for the television series, which is based on the popular 2006-2010 science fiction drama, “Heroes.”
“We’ve built a new car every year, gotten more and more sponsorships/grants, and represented ourselves—and Duke—on a national scale,” Cynthia Bai, DEV’s primary driver, wrote in an email. “The kind of camaraderie and bond we’ve built as a team when we’re working late on Friday nights are reflected in our accomplishments, and being chosen to appear on national TV is one of those accomplishments.”
After capturing Shell’s attention through its Eco-marathon success, DEV President Charlie Kritzmacher said that DEV was selected to do the cross promotional commercial for NBC’s “Heroes Reborn” and the Shell Eco-marathon. A few members of the team, including Kritzmacher, Bai and DEV Mechanical Engineer Abraham Ng’Hwani, a senior, flew to Los Angeles to film the commercial during Fall Break.
DEV’s accomplishment in winning awards at the Eco-marathon and getting featured in the commercial may have impact in the automotive engineering industry, Kritzmacher explained. The vehicle which gave DEV the opportunity to be in the commercial features a carbon fiber monocoque. A normal car typically has a frame that carries the structural load of the car and a body that acts as a sort of aerodynamic appendage, he noted. A monocoque, however, is a hybrid of the two objects. In DEV’s car, the monocoque is the sole entity that holds the car together, promoting efficiency, Kritzmacher explained.
“In our case, our body is the entire frame,” Kritzmacher said. “There is no frame to speak of really. It’s just the exoskeleton carbon fiber monocoque that holds everything in.”
Kritzmacher added that he viewed the opportunity to showcase the vehicle in a commercial as a step forward in shifting the automotive industry’s attention to monocoques. Today, monocoques are primarily reserved for performance vehicles such as race cars, he explained. Kritzmacher said that despite this, the design of a monocoque and the lightweight properties of carbon fibers could enable production of electric vehicles on a larger scale because they have the potential to improve range and efficiency by decreasing weight.
“Overall the monocoque was a success,” Kritzmacher said. “Everything was in the right place. Everything fit together properly.”
Although Kritzmacher was not allowed to disclose details of the set and commercial content, he noted the experience of appearing in the commercial was a long yet interesting process.
“I can say that it was very detail-oriented and I was amazed at how particular everything was,” he said. “It’s not a long commercial. It was 30 seconds to a minute at most, and it took all day to do it. It was exhausting.”
Alexandra Monroe, the head of public relations for DEV, emphasized that despite the students’ lack of film experience the film crew was very welcoming.
“Everyone on set was really nice to us,” Monroe said. “We’re not actors so we were like ‘are we doing this right? Is this ok? Are we the reason we have to redo this? Did we mess up?’” she said. “Everyone was really great to us. It was actually Charlie’s birthday and the crew surprised him with a birthday cake.”
Bai described the experience as a glamorous, stereotypically Hollywood-like experience. The members were shuttled by a private driver in a black Cadillac. When they arrived on set, they were “dolled up” with makeup in preparation for the shoot.
“[The makeup artists] made us absolutely photoshop perfect - you could not see a single pore on our faces,” she wrote in an email. “The director was exactly how you’d imagine a director— a slender, shorter guy in jeans and Vans sitting back in his director’s chair sipping Starbucks while yelling about the lighting/focus.”
Kritzmacher said that although he does not envision himself being in front of the camera in the future, he found the experience worthwhile.
“I definitely have more respect for my favorite actors now. But I think I’m going to stick with engineering,” he said.