March 03, 2012 | posted by The Institute
“Astonishing” may be the only way to describe a car that gets 2,564 miles per gallon, but why stop there? How about more than 8,880 miles per gallon? As stunning as these figures may be, they’re not from a science fiction novel or some futurist’s wishful musings.
In fact, both of these performance milestones were achieved in the past two years at Shell Eco-marathon® competitions worldwide, where high school and college students design, build and test experimental vehicles made of materials ranging from canvas and wood to carbon fiber. Top honors go to entries that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy, with additional awards in such categories as the lowest CO2 emissions and best design.
An inspiring part of Shell’s “Smarter Mobility” program, Shell Eco-marathon provides engineers of the future with the opportunity to explore and promote sustainable transport. “This challenge unleashes a new generation of innovators, proving that we can reduce carbon emissions through trendsetting vehicles that run on a wider slate of fuels,” says Shell Eco-marathon Global Project Manager Mark Singer.
Shell Eco-marathon began in 1939 as a friendly wager between Shell researchers to see who could get the best mileage from their vehicles. It assumed its current form in 1985 in France as Shell Eco-marathon Europe, and in the past few years it has spread to the Americas (2007) and Asia (2010). Categories include Prototype, where the primary design consideration is maximizing efficiency; and UrbanConcept, including vehicles built to more conventional passenger car criteria. Fuels range from gasoline, diesel, GTL, biodiesel and ethanol to batteries, solar and even hydrogen.
In the past couple of years, hundreds of teams from around the world have pushed fuel performance to amazing heights:
At April’s Shell Eco-marathon Americas in downtown Houston, a team from Université Laval in Quebec recorded an incredible run of 2,564.8 miles per gallon in the Prototype class.
At May’s Shell Eco-marathon Europe, a team from the Politecnico di Milano (Italy) entered a solar-powered car capable of traveling 668 miles on just 1 kWh of energy.
At July’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia in Kuala Lumpur, the Thai team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa won the Prototype class, going 5,207 miles per gallon on a liter of fuel.
Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2009 Prototype class winner, St Joseph La Joliverie from Nantes, France, squeezed the equivalent of 8,870 miles from just 1 gallon of gasoline—enough to go from Paris to Berlin over four times!
Meeting the Challenge
The number of cars on the road is expected to triple by 2050, requiring a variety of fuels and techniques to meet the growing demand for mobility while limiting CO2 emissions. It’s therefore a very good thing that the students and their innovative designs at Shell Eco-marathon are competitively focused on smarter use.
“The impressive achievements at Shell Eco-marathon give me confidence in our energy future,” says Singer. “They exemplify the transition of Shell from the tried-and-true oil company I joined over two decades ago into the innovative energy organization I’m a part of today.”