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 achieved 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?

2008 winners:
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

2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas team roster
  School Name Team Name Country
Prototype      
Combustion      
  Barstow High School AZ-TECHS USA
  Cal Poly CalPloy Supermileage USA
  California State University Chico Suffrage USA
  California State University Los Angeles CSULA Supermileage USA
  Cedarville University GL4 USA
  Cedarville University Jackets Racing USA
  Centennial High School Huskies USA
  Centro de Investigaciones de Diseño Industrial (CIDI) / Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Némesis Mexico
  Chitkara Institute of Engineering & Technology / Punjab Technical University Team Stealth India
  College of the Redwoods Diesel Corsair USA
  Colorado School of Mines Colorado School of Mines USA
  Dalhousie University Dalhousie Supermileage Canada
  Design School/ State University of Minas Gerais Team Sabia Brazil
  East Los Angeles College Huskies USA
  George M. Schurr High School Spartans USA
  George M. Schurr High School Spartans USA
  George M. Schurr High School Spartans USA
  Grand Rapids Tech G-Rock USA
  Laval University Alerion Supermileage Canada
  Los Altos High School Hacienda La Puente Unified School District USA
  Louisiana State University LSU Eco-marathon Team USA
  Louisiana Tech University Tech EcoCar USA
  Loyola Marymount University Gen2 USA
  Loyola Marymount University Team Ramrod USA
  Mater Dei High School Mater Dei Supermileage USA
  Mishawaka High School MHS Engineering USA
  Monrovia High School Team Green USA
  Northern Arizona University Team SAE at NAU
USA
  R. L. Turner High School Turner USA
  Rochester Institute of Technolgoy RIT Greenvehicle Team USA
  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Rose-Hulman Efficient Vehicles USA
  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Rose-Hulman Efficient Vehicles USA
  Schurr High School Spartans USA
  Schurr High School Skyhawks USA
  UC Berkeley Cal SMV USA
  UCLA UCLA Supermileage USA
  Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico Escuderia Puma Mexico
  University of British  Columbia UBC Supermileage Team Canada
  University of California Santa Barbara UCSB Super Mileage USA
  University of Colorado at Boulder CU-L.A.T.E.R USA
  University of Houston - College of Technolog Team SAECO USA
  University of Texas at El Paso Miners USA
  Wright State University Raider Engineering USA
       
Fuel Cells  -    Hydrogen      
  Cicero North-Syracuse High School Performance Engineering Team USA
  Los Altos High School Hacienda La Puente Unified School District USA
  North Carolina A&T State University Aggie USA
  Penn State Blood, Sweat & Gears USA
  University of Houston Team Fuel Cell USA
  University of Victoria H2Drive Canada
  Lamar University Rebel Alliance USA
       
Solar      
  Centennial High School Huskies USA
  Ohio State University OSU Solar USA
  Purdue University Purdue Solar Racing Team USA
       
Urban Concept      
Combustion      
  Louisiana Tech University Tech EcoCar USA
  Mater Dei High School Mater Dei Super Mileage USA
       
Solar      
  The University of Arizona Arizona Solar Racing Team USA