2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas: The Ultimate Efficiency Run

By Editors on April 20, 2009 11:14 AM

In one of the world's primo mileage-maxxing competitions, a team from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, came out on top in the primo Prototype category with their "Alerion Supermileage" entry. It returned 2,757.1 mpg to win the grand prize for a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. As stunning as that figure may be, it still fell considerably short of the 2,843.0-mpg all-time Americas best mark set by last-year's winners from Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Indiana.

The Mater Dei team was back in full force again this year, dominating the new "Urban Concept" category with a 443.3 mpg mark for its gasoline-powered "Street Buggy" in a three-day event held at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The main difference between the two divisions is that Urban Concepts are intended to be more real-world "roadworthy" than the Prototypes, although both are permitted to use any conventionally available energy source, from gasoline, diesel and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to alternative fuels such as hydrogen, biomass and solar.

While the returning victors bested two other entries in the inaugural running of the Urban Concept class, one with an internal-combustion engine and one that used solar power, Laval's Alerion Supermileage faced off against 27 other Prototype competitors. Two of particular note were the best-performing hydrogen fuel-cell powered entry -- "Blood Sweat and Gears" from Penn State University -- that averaged 1,912.9 equivalent mpg, and the solar-powered "Pulsar" from Purdue University's Solar Racing team that topped the sun-runner set with a 4,913-mpg equivalent mark.

This year's Shell Eco-marathon Americas drew 44 teams and 500 participants from six high schools and 29 universities located in North and South America as well as one guest team from India. Currently a sister to the Shell Eco-marathon Europe, these two existing competitions will be joined by the inaugural Shell Eco-marathon Asia in 2010. Mark Singer, global project manager for the Shell Eco-marathon says the events are proving to be an ideal platform for bringing out the best in a new generation of future problem solvers and innovators. "By encouraging these students to build vehicles with greater energy efficiency, we hope this will help inspire others; and together we can find solutions that will help meet the global energy challenge."

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