Mileage contest source of new technologies

While the new results were off the record pace of last year, a bio-fuel powered car took home the gold for the best fuel efficiency at the European Shell Eco-marathon on May 20-21. The ethanol-powered winning entry, built by engineering students from the Lycée La Joliverie (France), completed its laps with fuel consumption equivalent to 2,885 km/l (6,785.

By Staff August 1, 2006

While the new results were off the record pace of last year, a bio-fuel powered car took home the gold for the best fuel efficiency at the European Shell Eco-marathon on May 20-21. The ethanol-powered winning entry, built by engineering students from the Lycee La Joliverie (France), completed its laps with fuel consumption equivalent to 2,885 km/l (6,785.5 mi/gal) of gasoline. A hydrogen-powered vehicle won last year’s competition with a pace of 3,836 km/l (9,022 mi/gal), so an ethanol-fueled winner this year was a surprise.

This year’s contest drew 3,000 participants comprising 255 teams from 21 countries. Contestants are primarily technical college and university students, although even younger teams compete. Student participation ensures a wide range of teams and prevents one group from dominating the competition. The sponsoring companies, Shell, Bosch, Michelin and SKF, along with the EU Directorate General for Energy and Transport, all watch this carefully as a hotbed for creative technological developments.

Such performance only is possible given the extreme lengths participants employ to shed weight and optimize aerodynamics. Driver comfort certainly takes a back seat to efficiency. There is also a division for Urban Concept vehicles, which must be capable of driving under more normal street traffic. This year’s winner was a team from the Technical University of Denmark with a new record of 810 km/l (1,905 mi/gal) using a fuel-cell-powered vehicle. Their performance was particularly notable in that they developed a method to utilize 100% of the hydrogen in their fuel cell, improving on normal consumption of only 95%. This process is already in further development and will likely be employed in future fuel cell designs.

Bosch recognized another development from the German Hochschule Offenburg team, which created a new type of wheel hub mounted motor for their fuel cell car. Bosch gave them the technical innovation award due to its compact size, exceptional efficiency, and suitability for automotive use.

The first eco-marathon was held in 1939 for Shell employees where the winning team achieved 21 km/l (49 mpg). Current competitors must maintain a speed of at least 30 km/h and complete seven laps of the Nogaro race track totaling 25 km.

www.shell.com/eco-marathon