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Mater Dei High School Breaks Mileage Record at 2008 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas

Mater Dei High School team poses with their #22 car, right, which is the grand prize winner, registering 2,843.4 miles per gallon at the 2008 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. The team’s #21 car, left, placed third in the event. Click to enlarge.

Mater Dei High School of Evansville, Ind., set a new mileage record at the 2008 Shell Eco-marathon Americas—a challenge to design, build and test fuel-efficient prototype vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel.

The Mater Dei Supermileage Team’s combustion-engine prototype vehicle achieved 2,843.4 miles per gallon, equivalent to 1,208.6 kilometers per liter. Despite wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour and various teams’s mechanical issues, three teams this year broke the 2007 mileage record set by Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

The 2008 Shell Eco-marathon Americas welcomed 32 teams from four high schools and 23 universities from Canada, Mexico and the US. The entries included 25 vehicles powered by combustion engines, four by fuel cell/hydrogen technology, one by diesel fuel, one by LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and two by solar power.

Category winners for the 2008 Shell Eco-marathon Americas include:

  • Grand Prize. With mileage of 2,843.4 mpg (1,208.6 kilometers per liter) the Supermileage Team from Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Ind. won a $10,000 grand prize with their vehicle, 6th Gen.

  • Combustion Engine. The 6th Gen vehicle from Mater Dei also took first place in this category with its 2,843.4 mpg (1,208.6 kilometers per liter) run.

  • Diesel. Eureka, Calif.,-based Diesel Corsair team placed first. The College of the Redwoods team achieved 304.5 mpg (129.4 kilometers per liter).

  • LPG. The Spartans from Schurr High School in Montebello, Calif., achieved 163.5 mpg (69.5 kilometers per liter) in their Mach 1 prototype vehicle.

  • Fuel Cell/Hydrogen. Penn State’s HFV Team from University Park, Pa., achieved 1,668.3 mpg (709.1 kilometers per liter) in its Blood, Sweat and Gears vehicle.

  • Solar. The Purdue Solar Racing team from West Lafayette, Ind., took first place with its solar vehicle Pulsar, which achieved 2,861.8 mpg (1,216.4 kilometers per liter).


John Taylor

So the Gas engine car gets a headline ~

~ and the real race winner a solar electric car, gets last mention ...

Oh yea, sponsored by Shell.


yeaaa !!! way to go @ The Purdue Solar Racing team.


"solar vehicle achieved 2,861.8 mpg"

So sunlight comes in gallons now does it? ;-)

Roger Pham

More detail follow up on this would be very much appreciated. It is interesting that the most energy-efficient vehicle uses combustion engine. Solar vehicle doesn't count since solar energy does not have an mpg equivalent. The solar class is probably solar-assisted vehicle since the sun does not always shine, and battery for energy storage would make the solar vehicle too heavy to achieve the high-level of energy efficiency quoted.

There should be another class: human-powered vehicle wih MPGe (ie. mpg equivalence: caloric value of food intake vs. distance traveled).
This of more than just academic interest. Imagine the modern Flinstones (how about Carbonites?) with super-light carbon-fiber 4-seat car (or Kevlar frame and Mylar covering) powered by humans pedaling, and perhaps assisted by an electric motor and supercapacity for acceleration. The 4-seat enclosing vehicle should weigh no more than 100 lbs, up to 150 lbs max, and with more people riding, there will be more horsepower ...uhh...uh...Human power... to compensate for the extra weight of more people?
This should give a new meaning to the word "Biofuel" (aka FOOD). BTW, the Carbonites can cancel their subscription to 24-hour Fitness club, since daily commute is exercising enough!

David Anderson

"(aka FOOD). BTW, the Carbonites can cancel their subscription to 24-hour Fitness club, since daily commute is exercising enough!"

While bicycling, I figure I get about 30 MPQ; "Miles Per Quart" (of orange juice).


A quick check of the rules found at (It's a PDF file)

shows that the grand prize winner must run on fuel of some sort. Still not clear how the MPG number for the solar car was calculated.

daniel billinton

'Breaks mileage record' ?? What utter nonsense.

The current world record for fuel economy was set on July 9, 2003. by a french team called Microjoule with 10,705 miles per gallon (approx. 9,020 miles per US gallon)

I have been involved in these vehicles over the past 25 years and we were achieving ~2,500mpg back in the early '80's without fuel injection.

This shows how america is 25 years behind Europe with environmental issues.

Not to mention really bad reporting and ignorance of anything outside of 'the states'


It makes you wonder what these competitions are for:

Training engineers Y
Exciting young people about engineering etc Y
Greening up Shell's image Y
Doing anything useful for transport N

The vehicles are so extreme that they have no application to transport, especially in the USA.

As David points out, cycling is just as good - and safer.

Super low and small vehicles (or recumbant bikes) are too small and low to be safe in traffic. A standard bike has no protection, but at least the cyclist can be seen and can see clearly, and motorists know what a cyclist is.

An e-bike or e-scooter using LiIon batteries would be a good vehicle for people who are too posh to push, or who live in very hot countries.

The energy requirements for 2 wheeled e-vehicles are so low, that it does not really matter where the power comes from.

daniel billinton

The Sheel Eco-marathon competitions have many aims -

To demonstrate what sort of fuel economy can really be achieved if a radically different perspective is taken.

To demonstarte to the public how shockingly inefficient everyday vehicles are and the very high price that is paid for crash protection, comfort and performance.

To demonstrate an alternative paradigm for a post-oil world.

If HPV's or road going eco marathon vehicles were the mainstream easily achieing 20-30mph (faster than most traffic) then there wouldn't be a need for the SUV arms race we have now

i dispute that these vehicles have no applicatuion in transport - the technologies used in these vehicles- advanced engine design,efficient transmissions, boundary layer aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tyres, lighteweighting, stop start systems etc. are all technologies gradually being introduced on everyday cars.

This is the cutting edge putting the motor industry to shame - not an irrelevance


Sponsored by Shell, hmmmmm. Isn't that like Michael Jackson sponsoring "kids day"?

Jesse 67

In 1987 the university of Saskatchewan engineering team (where I went to school by the way) got over 5600 mpg with their car in this competition, setting an outright world record for its time. The engine was from a 70cc honda motorcyle which was bigger than most but the body design was such that it had a negative drag coefficient at certain angles of attack to the prevailing wind. Essentialy like a sail car and not just for a wind from behind. On windy test days they could be accelerating around half of the track with the engine off. The car does not have a sail or a really stange shape either.
If this kind of technology, or others learned from top teams, could be incorporated into road going vehicles then competitions like these can be much more than just a good learning experience.


I still think this stuff is so far off centre, it is of little use, so here is an alternative:

* The Ford Ka challenge:

Teams buy a Ford Ka (for say $1000).

They have to leave in seatbelts (and perhaps airbags).

They have to leave in the radio and heater.

They can replace the engine, tyres, etc.

They have to reach certain performance targets
(say 0-60 in 15 seconds, 80 mph, 400 mile range).
[ You could have a 150 mile range section for BEVs ]

Then, off you go to see what mpg you can get.

You can go electric, diesel, petrol, 2 stroke, 4 stroke,
2 cylinder, solar panel whatever you feel like.

Anyone who hits the targets gets their cash refunded.

This is a car that people actually buy and drive now.

* It doesn't have to be a Ford Ka, it could be any modern or fairly modern car.


your comment on the excess of safety, comfort and performance is well made - how much could you give on each of these to increase efficiency and still build a car that people would buy and drive.

If you look at the Tata $2.5K car, you can see that the points in the 3rd world might be very different to the 1st.

And yet ...

people buy cars for more than transport - they but them as wealth and status display mechanisms, and that is part of what has people in huge SUVs and 140 mph BMWs where there is a 75mph speed limit.

Not an easy problem.

I hope we can solve it before the oil runs out and the global economy crashes.


FYI, Cal Poly is short for California Polystechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Good to see my alma mater being beaten by high school kids!


eh... "Polytechnic"...lunchtime.


First, Congrats to Mater Dei, a high school team from the corn fields of indiana beating top notch engineering schools across america. Oh and not only first place but also 3rd. And that is after doing the right thing and giving up 2 runs ( one 4000 and the other over 8000 ).
This would have been much closer to the record in europe but you can not compare this competition to the one in Europe. 2 major differences, drivers in the america competition must be 16 at least, europe is any age, (younger kids are often lighter). Second European teams can be made of 6 engineers with PhD's who work year round and have nearly unlimited funds. American teams are students who build the car while trying to keep up with homework and have less than 1 year to do so.
Shell does have an "urban Concept" catagory where the vehicle built by students must be street legal. Shell had a demo urban concept vehicle there which averaged 300 mpg. next year the catagory is open to all teams and will be a much better look at what students from this nation can do on for a real life situation.


To daniel billinton: Please read the Headline "Mater Dei High School Breaks Mileage Record at 2008 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas" It says America, not world. This is for the one competition.

And yes you are correct the French hold the "world" record


Let's get serious about a street legal car. For the competition, mandate more power to run heating, air conditioning and lights,and 0 to 100km/hr performance of 6sec, then see how efficient are these machines.
And once oil becomes the cavier of fuel, the only reasonal source left is nuclear power. Oops! The French are ahead in that technology too!


Concerning the solar car questions:

The solar cars have two different gauges on them. One gauge measures how much energy is absorbed by the panels, which is measured in Joules, and the other determines how much energy (Joules) was sent to the motor to power the car. They then somehow convert Joules per mile to Miles per gallon. I believe it has something to do with BTU's how how efficient everything is. They were using 89 octane fuel by the way.

The Mater Dei cars do not look practical. Shell merely wants to generate positive publicity with a cheap high milage per gallon stunt.

I began driving an electric motorcycle in 2003 and I haven't looked back.

Most of the American cars BOAST 30 miles per gallon highway mileage, a joke.

The car companies and the oil companies want to continue to exploit automobile drivers. Have you noticed that most practical cars that get a lot of mileage per gallon look like clown cars, except for the
very high priced Tesla electric car that costs over $100,000?

Well my electric motorcycle cost $2700 in 2003. I get 30 miles per charge.

The car companies do not want to make cars that everyone can escape the high cost of driving because they need to exploit drivers so they can live lavish lives at the regular person's expense.

This appears literally just a SHELL game.


To Steve. As Adam said, we did the same thing for two of our runs. We got 8000 and 4000 mpg. We gave up the runs because in the spirit of competition, it was unfair.


Heh, my bad, I got the names wrong. My post was to Jesse, and should have been 'Justin said' not Adam. :P


I think you should keep up all the GOOD work WE NEED

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