April 16-18, 2009, Fontana, CA – The goal of the Shell Eco-marathon is to design and build the worlds most fuel-efficient vehicle that produces the fewest emissions.
The eco-marathon has evolved since the friendly wager between two Shell scientists back in 1939. On regular gasoline, they achieved a respectable 50 miles per gallon! Those two scientists would be surprised to know that in 2008 the mileage winner was 2,843 miles per gallon and was acheived by Mater Dei High School students.
Shell allows teams to enter two main categories:
* Futuristic prototypes which are streamlined pod-like vehicles where the primary design consideration is reducing drag and maximizing efficiency. Purdue’s solar vehicle looks more like something out of star wars, and Brazil has a design that is reminiscent of a ’30s Bugatti, but the others are pods.
* Urban Concept vehicles are new to the eco-marathon Americas challenge for 2009. These vehicles will be built to more conventional 4-wheel roadworthy criteria. they look like little buggies from the Fred Flintstone days.
Either conventional fuels (such as diesel, gasoline and LPG), or alternative fuels (such as solar, electric, hydrogen, bio-fuels and GTL) can be used to power vehicles. The vehicles vary in fuel and in sophistication. All I can say is, if Shell didn’t allow duct tape there would be fewer entrants.
They came bearing vehicles that were made out of fiberglass or carbon fiber. The pods were started by four-stroke engines like a Honda 50cc or 25cc or a fuel cell from Ballard Power Systems. A Nickel Metal hydride battery was purchased off the internet, and some were bought directly from Toyota. Some pieces looked like they were pulled directly from a dumpster.
Forty-four student teams (29 universities, 6 high schools) comprised of engineering students from schools in the United States, Canada, Brazil, India and Mexico are participating in the 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas.Schurr High school won the prize for the number (5) of vehicles they entered (two were gasoline, three were LPG).
Once the school has their vehicle together it has to be tested by one of the Shell scientist. All vehicles must comply with the technical and safety rules of the event. Once they pass they are sent to do a quick figure 8 driving test and then to the track. Each group gets 39 minutes to go around the track seven times. They are then sent straight back to the scientist to refill the tank and check the temperature of the fuel. From there the fuel is calculated to the equivalent of miles per gallon. Since the initial marathon was based on gasoline, the gasoline entrant wins the grand prize. The other fuels will place in their fuel category.
So what are the miles per gallon to beat this year?
Gasoline: 2,843 miles per gallon (mpg)
solar: 2,861.8 mpg
fuel cell/hydrogen: 1,668.3 mpg
diesel: 304.5 mpg
LPG: 163.5 mpg