At the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Americas in Houston this past weekend, Canadian teams took the top two spots in the gasoline Prototype category. The winning team, from Université Laval, managed to hit 2,824 miles per gallon (mpg), just a few drops ahead of the second-place team, the University of Toronto, which finished with 2,712 mpg. Last year, the winning team got 3,587 mpg. The winning fuel economy figures have ranged in the past all the way up to and over 8,000 mpg.

The Eco-marathon has multiple categories, and the UrbanConcept space - which features bigger vehicles that often have a bit of fun with style, like the Back To The Future DeLorean from St. Pauls School pictured above, which only got 72.4 mpg - was won by Mater Dei High School from Evansville, IN with 901.48 mpg. There were also a handful of hydrogen-powered vehicles, with the winner's crown going to the University of Colorado Denver with a score of 37.37 m/kWh. The Prototype battery-powered EV category was won by the Université de Sherbrooke from Quebec, Canada, with 202 m/kWh. The diesel-powered Prototype category was won by Sullivan High School from Sullivan, IN with a score of 1,899.32 mpg

There is more, including a video, below. Next year, the Shell Eco-marathon Americas will leave its home in Texas for the past five years and head north to Detroit. Will the Canadians do as well when they're closer to home?

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Université Laval reclaims top spot after tight race with rival University of Toronto

28 Apr 2014

HOUSTON – After a nail-biting weekend of Université Laval and University of Toronto vying for the best mileage in the last Shell Eco-marathon Americas to take place in Houston, Université Laval's Alérion Supermileage team ultimately took top honors with an impressive achievement of 2,824 miles per gallon (mpg). With that kind of mileage, the Alérion Supermileage vehicle could travel from Houston all the way to Detroit – host city for Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2015 – on less than a half gallon of fuel.

Though Université Laval has dominated the competition five of the previous six years, they were almost dethroned by the University of Toronto due to some surprising friction problems that developed in the Laval team's vehicle's electrical system. Ultimately, however, the team overcame the obstacles and brought home the top $2,000 prize once again.

"Our team is very excited with the results of the weekend," said team captain Audrey Lainé. "Initially we had issues with our engine, but we came together as a team to fix it and are extremely satisfied. The University of Toronto and Mater Dei High School had very close scores to our team, which made the weekend even more exciting."

In the UrbanConcept category, Mater Dei High School from Evansville, Indiana, achieved a solid 901.48 mpg with its gasoline vehicle Elroy, breaking its previous record of 849 mpg and scoring the top prize of $2,000 for the UrbanConcept category for the third year in a row. The school's other entry, a Prototype battery electric vehicle, captured that energy category with 537.16 miles per kilowatt-hour (m/kWh).

Other top achievements included:

- Prototype diesel: The No Spark Plug Allowed team from Sullivan High School in Sullivan, Indiana, set a new record achieving 1,899.32 mpg with their vehicle Black Diesel.

- Prototype ethanol: The Tatonkatoo team from the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado, achieved 1,771.37 mpg with their vehicle Tatonkatoo.

- Prototype hydrogen: The UCDenver team from University of Colorado Denver in Denver, Colorado, achieved 37.37 m/kWh with their vehicle Archetype.

"We look at Shell Eco-marathon as a way to spark a passion for engineering among young people, as well as fuel the conversation around future energy challenges," said Wolfgang Warnecke, Shell Chief Scientist Mobility. "Each year we see new technologies that have been developed by these bright young minds, and we hope someday to see these innovations make their way into everyday vehicles."

Tech Advances Galore

Over its 30 various "editions," Shell Eco-marathon has seen radical changes in car design and the use of new technologies. For example, this year's electric-battery vehicle of Saint Thomas Academy of Mendota Heights, Minnesota, sported a 3D-printed steering wheel that the team designed to improve upon its previous touchscreen steering wheel.  Team captain Ian Nichols noted that the 3D-printed wheel includes a button for radio communication between the driver and the rest of the team, as well as an easily accessible throttle near the top right of the wheel.

St. Paul's School from Covington, Louisiana, created the seat in its UrbanConcept diesel vehicle Indy, inspired by Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, by creating it from kombucha, a vegetable leather grown from yeast, sugar water and bacteria. Team member Marcus Garner said the team wanted to build fuel-efficient vehicles that incorporate natural materials and are also visually appealing.

Other technical advances included an entirely student-designed computer system developed by the Cedarville University team that measures factors like wind resistance and wheel speed in order to provide the team with real-time data to guide their driving strategy. Additionally, Rice University's vehicle, Alpha Centuria, was made to be ultra-lightweight with carbon fiber and composite materials, and Brazil's Universidade Federal de Itajuba team added solar panels this year to make its electric battery vehicle even more energy efficient.

Ingenuity, Flexibility are Key

Anything can happen with the vehicles, so teams must be ready to react and move quickly on alterations, or come up empty-handed. The team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign learned, just nine days before the start of the competition, that its UrbanConcept hydrogen vehicle, EcoConcept, would not start due to a broken fuel cell. A last-minute decision was made to switch the vehicle to a gasoline-powered engine, a major challenge because the team's only experience was on hydrogen engines. They completed the changeover Saturday night during the competition but, despite their best efforts, couldn't complete a run this year.

Goodbye Houston, Hello Detroit

This year marked the eighth edition of Shell Eco-marathon Americas and the fifth year in Houston. The students will now gear up to take the Motor City by storm April 10-12, 2015. To drum up excitement for next year's event, Sullivan High School's winning vehicle will be displayed in Detroit's Henry Ford museum, and will be transported there by fuel efficiency expert Wayne Gerdes in the back of a 2014 RAM 1500 Laramie Limited using a new test market pilot fuel: Shell Diesel FiT.

New global partners HP, Michelin, The Linde Group and Southwest Research Institute assisted the student engineers by offering expertise, products and collaborative opportunities. The new partners added considerable value to the event, particularly with regard to innovation, technology, sustainability, mobility and tackling future energy challenges.

For more information on all 2014 events across the globe, including the complete Americas 2014 roster, schedule and official rules, please visit the Shell Eco-marathon website at

About Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies in more than 70 countries. We deliver a diverse range of energy solutions and petrochemicals to customers worldwide. These include transporting and trading oil and gas, marketing natural gas, producing and selling fuel for ships and planes, generating electricity and providing energy efficiency advice.

We also produce and sell petrochemical building blocks to industrial customers globally, and we are investing in making renewable and lower-carbon energy sources competitive for large-scale use. In the U.S., we operate in 50 and employ more than 20,000 people delivering energy in a responsible manner.

About Shell Eco-marathon
Shell Eco-marathon is a global program that challenges high school and college student teams to design, build and test the most energy-efficient vehicles. With annual events in the Americas, Europe and Asia, this innovation competition pushes future scientists and engineers to travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy. Visit to learn more about this program.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 22 Hours Ago
      apparently the winning school also entered a Prototype battery electric vehicle that captured the energy category with 537.16 miles per kilowatt-hour (m/kWh). it's known that there's 33kWh of energy per gallon of gas 537.16 x 33 = over 17,000 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent) that's totally obscene, but not unexpected. EVs get around 5x the efficiency of gas cars, which makes sense when you see the 3000 mpg of the gas version in the article. 3000 x 5 =15,000 which is close to 17k i calculated. but since it's presumably a shell press release, you can guess which car made the headline.
      • 22 Hours Ago
      Ok, now, in the real world you need stowing capacity, towing capacity and at least 4 seat and safety equipment. Which of these cars even come close to any of my needs? None. But ok, it's nice to see what one can do.
      • 22 Hours Ago
      --" but hopefully some of the things they learn with aerodynamics and engine efficiency might" That is the danger... they are not learning that. They are learning the best way to get aerodynamic... is to sacrifice any comfort for the driver and turn it into a coffin shape. They are learning the best way to get engine efficiency... is to sacrifice power and any performance. They SHOULD be learning how to get results within the constraints of safety, comfort, minimal performance, utility, and rideability. Instead, they are given only the constraints that it must carry a single small "jockey", regardless of whether that jockey is comfortable, or able to see properly. This will only breed engineers that will be unable to meet real demands... and thus, will keep the status quo. Well, maybe Shell had that in mind all along.
      • 22 Hours Ago
      These cars look nice. Congrats to the team from Quebec! I can only dream of the day when thesefuel efficient cars are more affordable for the public to buy. I think Americans just care about affordability. If the fuel efficient cars cost too much to buy, nobody is going to drive them. So until they make these cars CHEAP, they might be a tough sell. I drive a ’02 Honda Civic handed down from my father-in-law (RIP) who bought it new. I do my own maintenance so there's minimal maintenance costs, no depreciation, low insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda) and registration costs, no car wash expenses (I park it outside when it's raining) and people think twice before trying to cut in front of me. It's a comfortable ride on the highway but is also nimble on dirt roads. I could easily afford a new car but then I'd have to fuss about dents, scratches, car washes and all those other costs. It's got a 3.1L V6 that achieves 30 mpg on the highway. As long as it continues to pass smog it's a keeper.
      • 22 Hours Ago
      This competition used to be about encouraging our youth to develop sustainable eco cars of the future... it has become just a segment of soapbox racing. Instead of time, it is fuel usage. The real problem is that non of the technology being used here is applicable to real cars... and thus, is irrelevant to the real challenge of turning the auto industry green. The MPG sure looks impressive... but it really is a worthless number if you think getting 2000 mpg in a soapbox would help a sedan get even 1 extra mpg. We don't need "eco" distractions or greenwashing anymore Shell.
      • 22 Hours Ago
      These students are our future and the lessons they learn, through problem solving and innovation, are the greatest value from this competition. Our son competed and we attended the event and you could not find a nicer, more intelligent group of kids and young adults ever. They do try to test new technologies, learn to work with light weight materials, and learn how to engineer a solution to a problem. Are they truly expected to figure out a solution to alternative fuel at these competitions? Probably not, but will they become enlightened engineers who someday might solve our most difficult issues, wholeheartedly yes! A great training ground for all of those involved, Shell is investing in our future one student at a time. They deserve kudos to sponsoring such an event!
      • 22 Hours Ago
      This competition used to be about encouraging our youth to develop sustainable eco cars of the future... it has become just a segment of soapbox racing. Instead of time, it is fuel usage. The real problem is that non of the technology being used here is applicable to real cars... and thus, is irrelevant to the real challenge of turning the auto industry green. The MPG sure looks impressive... but it really is a worthless number if you think getting 2000 mpg in a soapbox would help a sedan get even 1 extra mpg. We don't need "eco" distractions or greenwashing anymore Shell.
        Brian Rautio
        • 22 Hours Ago
        Bicycle wheels and nap-time inducing driving positions certainly have no relevance to a daily driver, but hopefully some of the things they learn with aerodynamics and engine efficiency might. Regardless, I wouldn't expect industry changing research to be carried on by competing undergraduates and highschoolers, and I believe you are correct that this probably won't change anything directly. I see the value in this being more about getting young students interested in efficiency and green science, and hopefully helping to shape their career path.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 22 Hours Ago
        I totally agree with you. I think that most of the technology is not applicable, but it's really the form factor and weight of the car that make the insane MPGs possible. Current regulations for 4 wheel vehicles ( all 4 wheel vehicles must be highway capable and meet XYZ crash/safety standards at highway speeds ) prevent anything like these cars from ever being built. I think it highlights a problem with our regulations however - why do we not have a mid-speed vehicle class? to build a super efficient car, you have to go with 3 wheels , and a 3 wheel configuration puts you at some disadvantages over a 4 wheeler. To build an 'around town' car, your speed limit is 25mph. That's useless!