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Ethanol-Powered Car Ranks Top in Fuel-Efficiency at Shell Eco-Marathon

The winner.

An ethanol-powered car has achieved the best fuel efficiency at the just-concluded Shell Eco-marathon 2006. The car, engineered by students from the Lycee La Joliverie (France) also took the “Climate Friendly” prize for producing the least greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

The winning car completed seven laps of the Nogaro circuit in southwest France, with an energy consumption equivalent to 2,885 km/liter of gasoline: .0347 liters/100km or 6,779 mpg US.

The car bested a field of entrants using many types of energy: biofuels, gasoline, diesel, hydrogen and solar. The top eight finishers all broke the 2,000km/liter mark.

The performance of the ethanol team has shown that hydrogen powered vehicles are not the only solution to the Shell Eco-marathon challenge for energy efficiency. The fact that so many fuel types are represented in the top teams is a great sign of the wide range of alternative energies which could play a part in the future of transportation.

—Vincent Tertois, technical director for the Shell Eco-marathon

In second place came the hydrogen-powered ESSTIN-Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy team (France), followed by the hydrogen-powered Polytech Nantes-La Joliverie team (France).

Polytech Nantes-Joliverie had been locked in a battle with German team Hochschule Offenburg and ESSTIN to achieve the best ranking for a hydrogen car. At the close of the circuit on Sunday, Hochschule Offenburg found themselves in fourth position with a fuel consumption of 2,614km/l.

The award-winning wheel-hub motor.

The Offenburg team had switched from diesel to hydrogen for the 2006 event and also used an innovative wheel-hub motor, which won them the Bosch technical innovation award.

According to the judges, the compact form of the wheel-hub motor, which includes the power electronics, is exceptionally efficient and eliminates free-wheeling. It took the team several attempts to design this electric pancake. Built without iron or steel, there are no magnetic losses, and achieving the distance of 2,614 km Saturday validated the quality of the concept.

Second prize in the technical innovation category went to ESSTIN Nancy for their optimization of the fuel cell. Off-the-shelf fuel cells were too heavy or too powerful, so the engineers of ESSTIN Nancy built their own, including the fabrication of graphite plates. They added supercapacitors to the fuel cell to improves efficiency and acceleration. The invention significantly reduced the size and weight of the powertrain to the rear drive wheel.

The third prize in the category went to Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, for a virtual accelerator and drive wheel in their fuel-cell vehicle. The rear wheel pivots around a carefully defined virtual axis that provides both precision and stability in turns. The accelerator pedal made of a composite spring doesn’t move; rather, it responds to pressure by deforming, sending a precise electrical signal to the control unit governing the electrical output of the fuel cell. Besides being technically cool, it provides remarkable precision because it doesn’t jump around on rough roads.


Mark A

Great, now if we could only get one of the worlds major racing series such as F-1, Cart, IRL, Road rally, or even (gulp) nascar to forgo conventional petroleum fuel, replaced by these types of powerplants. Then racing competion may increase development, where we would all benefit from these powerplants in the nearer future.


I would suggest F-1, Nascar etc. severly limit the amount of fuel they are allowed carry (and reduce it every year).
This would encourage innovation in more fuel efficient racing which would be interesting.
Like 1/2 what they typically use now for starters.

So come at it from both sides - the big boys getting more MPG and the little boys building cars people might actually drive.


racing aside, if at least some of these technologies (such as the improved-efficiency fuel cell) made their way into consumer products, then we could talk. i mean....thousands of miles/gallon, that's pretty ridiculous. and while a lot of it has to do with weight and aerodynamics, there's no denying that the powerplants in these cars are very big players in the consumption of these vehicles.

Sid Hoffman

IndyCars have used alcohol in the form of methanol pretty much for all of time. They switched to a blend for 2006 and will be 100% ethanol for the 2007 season.


Sure is neat to see people catching up to the technology that I have been trying to give away for years.

I've long said that I could design and any automaker could build a four passenger automobile that could easily go from coast-to-coast on five gallons of BioDiesel with 7% alcohol.

The acceleration would push you back in the seat and you could cruise the whole way at the speed limit.

Sure would like to see the whole package implemented instead of bits and pieces.

fyi CO2

Here's some more gibberish garnered from

The IndyCar Series will be the motorsports leader in renewable and environmentally responsible energy.

Announcement of the partnership was made in Washington, D.C., with several high-ranking ethanol industry leaders and political figures, including Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Ethanol improves racing’s environmental footprint.
In his February State of the Union address, President George W. Bush recognized ethanol as a reliable supply of affordable, environmentally responsible energy.

The fuel mileage of an IRL IndyCar Series car is less than two miles per gallon. These cars burn approximately 1.3 gallons of fuel per lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Over 11k laps were run in a PRACTICE session yesterday = nearly 15k gallons of environmentally responsible energy going around an oval in Indiana! not to mention all the petrol burned by the folks heading there in their vehicles next wknd! Green Car Congress - our mission is nearly accomplished ;)

Mark A

Lucas, give us your thoughts on the wheel hub motor. Appears to be pretty inovative.

Does this car have a suspension? Either way, if the students in universities today are this innovative, I think our future looks bright.


The Indy racers are probably interested in the higher octane they can get from methanol. Nice enviro-retoric tho.


Yeh, it's pretty silly trying to make NASCAR sound environmentally responsible. The actual mpg is essentially zero considering they were just going around in circles.

But here's a deal. For all those who drive cars for the power and speed, accomodate them at race tracks but keep the hyper powered vehicles off the roadways. This sounds like a win/win. The speed freaks get to exercise the passion and the rest of us will be safer and more environmentally responsible.

allen zheng

____How much do these vehicles weigh? M5, carbon, and other fibers in composites (with or without metal) could make these vehicles crash safe while low in weight. Proper weight/component distribution could make them bottom heavy (stable). Further elements (side curtain airbags, NASCAR seats, stability control, 5 pt harness, etc.) and these vehicles could be deemed safe in a pileup with 18 wheelers. Furthermore, they maybe also light enough to be waterproofed/can float/convert into boats (fringe/safety benefit). Even more eccentric would be to take advantage of their aerodynamic shape, and relatively light weight to make them a base part for a modular bolt-on aircraft system.
"the compact form of the wheel-hub motor, which includes the power electronics, is exceptionally efficient and eliminates free-wheeling. It took the team several attempts to design this electric pancake. Built without iron or steel, there are no magnetic losses, and achieving the distance of 2,614 km Saturday validated the quality of the concept."
Now this looks very promising! What are the physical dimensional and performance specs?

Sid Hoffman

Hi Lucas, you cannot drive a car coast to coast on 5 gallons of biodiesel if you want to have the ability to get a 5-star NHTSA crash rating, top ratings from the IIHS in the 40mph offset barrier test, and have the A/C going the whole way and have a list price under $20,000. That's what a modern car needs to be able to do. Your magic 500mpg car will not meet that criteria. It would take between 5 and 10 gallons of fuel just to run the air conditioning alone for such a trip.


Isn't miles/gallon missleading. Shouldn't it at least be miles/BTU when comparing different fuels.


Sid - Can't can't do anything. These kids don't know that yet. If they can drive a car across the US and back on one gallon of alcohol, I'm fairly certain I can do it one way with five.

I'm talking about a lightweight automobile constructed of composites, with an aircooled 2 cylinder opposed engine that only runs - at an ideal fixed speed - to recharge the advanced Lithium-Ions. No transmission. Just wires to each wheel. Fly-by-wire.

It can be done.

I just haven't found anyone smart enough and innovative enough to do it.


Are all of them using fuel cell or what? Why they can all do 2000 MPG?! We just need a bloody 100 MPG passenger car in real life thats it, wont sound too demanding isnt it?


Just read the rules.

It transpires that all results published are corrected for equvelant fuel economy with regular petrol.

So if the fuel economy is quoted as 6779mpg then the actual fuel economy would have been 4263mpg due to the lower calorific value of ethanol.

Oh, and the minimum average speed to be maintained round the course is a paltry 18.6 mph (30kph) Its a safe bet that the teams endeavoured to come as close to this as possible to achieve the best economy.


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