Students get competitive about fuel efficiency

Shell Eco Marathon

3,421 mpg-- the fuel efficiency standard of the future?

It may be- this was the top result at Shell’s Eco Marathon contest, this year held in Detroit. Over 1,000 high school and college students, some coming from as far away as Guatemala, raced a 0.9 mile track with pod-like cars they’d spent an entire year working on. The competition is split between “Prototype” and “Urban Concept” cars, with subcategories for battery-electric, alternative fuel, CNG, diesel, gasoline and hydrogen. The goal of the contest is to create the most fuel efficient car to complete the track.

The 140 vehicles had the chance to practice and perfect in Cobo Hall before they took to Detroit streets during the weekend of the 17th. The overall winning team from the University of Toronto competed with a gas-powered car, but the winning team in the battery-electric category were all still high schoolers- which gives us hope for the future. The team from Matter Dei High School clocked in at 450 m/kWh, with a gorgeous design to boot. In second place? The Duke University team.

Participants were enthusiastic about the learning opportunities afforded by the hands-on experience, from engineering principles to learning about the physics of race car driving.

“Shell Eco-marathon offers a great opportunity to apply some of the things you learn in the classroom,” said Tyler Dicks, a Cedarville University junior. “You learn some specialized skills that you wouldn’t necessarily get in an academic setting.”

For a look at the unique shapes and sites of the Eco Marathon contest take a look at the Detroit Free Press’ photo gallery.