A three-wheeled, teardrop-shaped car has won Shell’s (RDSA) Eco-marathon Americas competition, a yearly contest that pits teams of students against each other in a race to build energy-efficient vehicles.
The winning group, from Université Laval in Quebec, overcame technical setbacks, including excess friction short circuits, to achieve an efficiency of 2,824 miles per gallon. To put that in perspective, the prototype could travel from New York to Los Angeles on less than a gallon of fuel. And that figure is still well below the 3,587 miles per gallon the same school achieved last year. (Université Laval has won five out of the last six Shell competitions.)
The marathon was held in Houston, where teams competed in one of two classes: Prototype, which focuses on maximum efficiency, and UrbanConcept, which takes into account passenger comfort. Cars enter one of seven categories to run on conventional gas and diesel, biofuels, fuel made from natural gas, hydrogen, solar, or electricity. Over several days, teams drive a fixed number of laps around a circuit, traveling as far as they can on the equivalent of a gallon of fuel. Organizers calculate their energy efficiency and award $2,000 to the winner of each class.