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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.



Ok, F=MA Work = force X distance
Distance from NY to LA via mapquest directions 2780 mi

say each person weighs 150 lbs = 600lbs = 272 kg

1 gallon of B100 =~ 130,000 Btu

LHV: Low heat value--76,000 Btu per gallon of ethanol.

Ok so 5 gallons * ((.07 * 76,000) + .93* 130,000)
= 631100 Btu. - the losses of your chemical energy to kenetic energy conversion device.

That is how much energy you have to work with.

Define how quickly you want to accelerate?

0-60 in 5 sec that is pretty quick.
Really it is Jerk, the rate of change of acceleration that throws you back into your seat.

call it 0 to 100 Kmh in 5 sec
1000 m = 1 km
1 hr = 3600 sec

100*1000/3600/5 = 5.55 m/ sec squared

Force = Mass * acceleration

F = (273 kg + mass of fuel + mass of vehicle) * 5.56
F = 1518 newtons

how far did we go in 5 sec?

D =1/2 A *T^2
.5* 5.56* 25 = 69.5 m

69.5 m * 1518 N = 105501 J

105501 J / 5 sec = 21100.2 J/s / 746 w/hp

requires 28.28 hp to accelerate the mass of the passengers at this rate, more would be required with the mass of the vehicle, mass of the fuel, wind and rolling resistance, up hill etc.

Once you are traveling at the speed limit you only have to overcome drag from wind, rolling resistance, + any energy needed to go up hill.

1 lb = .45 kg
1 BTU = 107.5 kilograms-meters
1 ft = .3048 m

To cross the usa you are going to have to go up a few hills, mountians etc.

To hold true to your claims you need to move 273 Kg up and over hills.

2780 mi / 60 mph = 46.33 hr

631100 btu / 2780 mi = 227 btu per mile assuming 100% efficent engine

or 227 btu per min @ 60 mi per hr.

1 kilowatt-hour = 3415 BTU

1 kilowatt = 1.341 horsepower

BTU per min 0.2356 horsepower

BTU per min 0.01757 kilowatts

So your vehicle has 227*.2356 = 53.48 HP assuming a 100% efficent engine, even 50% would be amazing so 26.7 hp, but 30% is more realistic so we are down to 16 HP.

Back to hill climbing we now have an idea how much power we have to work with.

let us say we have a very steep hill to climb, a %16 grade and we want to maintain 60 mph, the road rises 845 ft in 1 mi or 257m

lifting 272 kg 257m = 69904 Kg-m in 1 min
or 650 Btu per min = or 153.2 hp to keep speed going up this steep grade.
That is only the power requiured to lift the pasengers, not the weight of the fuel or the vehicle or any cargo, or any wind resistance or rolling resistance.
That is output power required even at %50 efficency it would take twice this amount of fuel.

It may be possible to go 3000 mi at 60 mph with 4 people over flat ground with no wind, no ac, no lights

From the looks of the math while it might be possible it would be very difficult to accomplish said task, especially with the performance you quote.

I think a vehicle like you describe would get good mpg but not as good as you think. A small air cooled engine like that is going to be limited in its efficency by the heat losses. You can insulate it to try to get all the heat converted to motion that you can.
The amount of energy you can get out of a heat engine is determined by the delta T the difference in temps between the hot and cold. The outside air determines the temp of the low side and the melting point of the metal in the engine limits you on the high side, (metal gets weaker at high temps)

ok so B100 has a mass of .879 g/ ml

879 kilograms = 1.93786328 pounds

1 US gallon = 3.7854118 l

= 3.78 * 1.93 = 7.33 lbs per us gallon of B100

or about 36.7 lbs of fuel

you want to cross the usa at 60 mph = 46.33 hr

36.7 lbs / 46.33 hr = fuel consumption per hr = .79 lb/ hr

a real life diesel may get a BSFC of .36

how much HP can we expect from this engien if we have that BSFC?

BSFC = fuel flow / hp

HP = fuel flow / BSFC

HP = 2.19

What BSFC would we have if we got 16 hp?

Considering this diesel has a BSFC of .26 and exceeds 50% thermal efficiency ... your claims do not seem reasonable.


Rj - Calculate for us if its possible to fly a small plane across the Atlantic on one gallon of fuel.

Before you prove it impossible, you need to know that it already has been done.

My undergraduate Physics Professor found it impossible to conceive of the speed of light as anything but an absolute. I showed his how to double the speed of light and to slow it to a crawl.

He was absolutely certain that it wasn't possible and went along his deluded way.


Interesting stuff.
flying a model plane from canada to ireland.

It helps if you post links to let others learn about what you are talking about.

When you say small plane I ASSuME cesna class fly a person small plane like my sister flys, those burn 9 - 11 gallons per hr.

At no point did I say it was not possible.

I show my work and the sources I used to evaluate your claims.

If the numbers I used are incorrect or if I made errors in my math then by all means please correct them.

It looks like it could be possible, but certianly not trivial, success or failure could depend on the direction of the wind that day.

I have serious doubts that it could be done with the performance specs you spoke of, in particular maintaining speed while going up a grade.


I COULD have posted a link but that would have taken all the fun out of it.

bimini tops

Next your going to tell us that the same thing happened years before when you, a buddy and his brother in law (call them call them Tom and Wayne to protect the innocent) were fishing and Tom s pole fell off his lap.

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