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Friday, November 21, 2008


The Eco-Marathon is an annual competition sponsored by Shell, in which participants build special vehicles to achieve the highest possible fuel efficiency. The Eco-Marathon is held around the world with events in the UK, Finland, France, Holland, Japan, and the USA.

The events are entered by a range participants from enthusiastic amateurs to university teams and major motor manufacturers with a variety of designs. The only two motor manufacturers to have any success in the event have been Ford and Honda.

A world record was set by a French team in 2003 called Microjoule with a performance of 10705 mpg-imp (3,790 km/l/8,914 mpg-US). The current record is 12665 mpg-US (5,384 km/l/15,210 mpg-imp), set in 2005 by the PAC-Car II. In contrast, the most efficient diesel passenger cars achieve 60 mpg-US (26 km/l/72 mpg-imp), and some high-powered sportscars achieve as little as 6 mpg-US (3 km/l/7 mpg-imp).


The event's history stretches back nearly seventy years. In 1939, a group of Shell scientists based in a research laboratory in Wood River, Illinois, USA, had a friendly bet to see who could drive their own car furthest on one gallon of fuel. At the time, 17.7 km/L (50 mpg-imp/42 mpg-US) was the best that could be achieved. That idea was the foundation for this international event, and the first competition was held in Mallory Park in the UK in 1977, (1976 international competition "Pisaralla Pisimmälle" was held in Finland (Keimola)).

Over the past 30 years, fuel economy has improved dramatically. Shell points out that "it would be possible for the winning Shell Eco-Marathon UK car to travel three times around the equator on the same amount of fuel that Concorde needed to reach the end of the runway."

The competition

The Eco-Marathon has different classes of competition: Fuel cell-powered, solar cell-powered, gasoline-fueled, diesel-fueled, and LPG-fueled. During the competition, cars must attain an average speed of at least 15 mph (23 km/h) over a distance of 10 miles (16 km). The course is typically a motor racing track—for the pan-European meet, the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France, for the English meet, the infield automobile competition course at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, and the Americas, the automobile competition course at the California Speedway in Fontana. The fuel is strictly measured out for each entrant. At the end of the course, the amount of fuel used is measured; from that figure, fuel economy is calculated.

The marathon includes a set of rules to create a set of safe conditions for the event. Some of the rules for the event may encourage participants to enter vehicles that use hydrocarbon-based fuel sources. For instance, the Eco-marathon places solar-powered vehicles in their own class and are excluded from winning the $10,000 grand prize.

Another rule eliminates the use of an EGR valve, which reduces greenhouse gases in internal combustion engines. The marathon requires entrants to use Shell oil products exclusively when gasoline or diesel fuel are the sources of energy.


The top performing vehicles are specially designed for high efficiency. Some vehicles use a coast/burn technique whereby they briefly accelerate from 10 to 20mph (from 16 to 32km/h) and then switch the engine off and coast for approximately 2 minutes until the speed drops back down to 10mph (16 km/h). This process is repeated resulting in average speed of 15mph for the course. Typically the vehicles have:

* Automobile drag coefficients (Cd) <>
* Rolling resistance coefficients <>
* Weight without driver of <>
* Engine efficiency of <>

The vehicles are highly specialized and optimized for the event and are not intended for every day use. The designs represent what can be achieved with current technology and offer a glimpse into the future of car design based on minimal environmental impact in a world with reduced oil reserves. The work of the participants can be used to show ways manufacturers could redesign their products.

Teams who have participated in the competition include

* Team Green
* Microjoule
* Eco-Runner Team Delft
* Trinity School Racing
* Aemval
* Pac-car
* Sandbach School
* Team Schluckspecht
* Team TIM
* Fortis Saxonia
* Eco Motion Team by ESSTIN
* Remmi-Team


The cars in this competition are highly impractical for consumer use. They carry no passengers, and the driver is often forced into an uncomfortable position in order to reduce aerodynamic drag. The cars are designed to achieve maximum efficiency at 15 miles per hour (mph) (23 km/h), and some are incapable of exceeding 30 mph (48 km/h). They have few safety or comfort features, and most are not street legal.

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