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Grand Prize Combustion-Engine Winner at 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas Achieves 2,757.1 MPG

Some of the vehicles in the 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas. Click to enlarge.

The student team from Laval University (Quebec, Canada) took the grand prize in the “Prototype” category at the 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas, held 15-18 April at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, with 2,757.1 miles per gallon (0.085 L/100km). The team from Mater Dei High School (Evansville, Ind.) took the grand prize in the new “UrbanConcept” by achieving 433.3 mpg (0.543 L/100km).

More than 500 students in 44 participating teams participated in the event, a challenge for students to design, build and test fuel-efficient vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel. The 44 teams were from six high schools and 29 universities from North and South America, including Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States. Additionally, a guest team from India joined the roster with a Prototype vehicle.

This year’s challenge brought together a number of returning teams striving to beat the 2,843 mpg (0.083 L/100km) record set by Mater Dei High School in 2008, combined with a number of new teams adding fresh innovation and vehicle designs to the competition.

This year, student teams were invited to participate in either the Prototype or UrbanConcept categories. For the Prototype category, teams entered futuristic prototypes—streamlined vehicles focused on maximizing fuel efficiency through innovative design elements, such as drag reduction. For the UrbanConcept category, teams entered more roadworthy fuel-efficient vehicles. Aimed at meeting the real-life needs of drivers, these vehicles are closer in appearance to the cars seen on roads today. For both categories, teams could use any conventionally available energy source, including fuels such as diesel, gasoline and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), as well as alternative fuels such as hydrogen, biomass and solar.

The Prototype entries included 28 vehicles powered by combustion engines, five by fuel cell/hydrogen technology, three by LPG, three by solar power, and two by diesel fuel. The UrbanConcept entries included two vehicles powered by combustion engines and one by solar power.

Category winners for the 2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas include:

  • Prototype. Grand Prize - Combustion Engine. With mileage of 2,757.1 mpg, the Alerion Supermileage team from Laval University in Quebec, Canada won a US$5,000 grand prize with their vehicle, NTF 3.0.

  • Prototype. Fuel Cell/Hydrogen. The Penn State University team from University Park, Pa. achieved 1,912.9 mpg in its Blood, Sweat & Gears vehicle.

  • Prototype. Solar Power. The Purdue Solar Racing team from Purdue University took first place with its solar vehicle, Pulsar, which achieved 4,913 mpg.

  • UrbanConcept. Grand Prize - Combustion Engine. With mileage of 433.3 mpg, the Mater Dei Supermileage Team from Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Ind. won a US$5,000 grand prize with their vehicle, Street Buggy.

  • Eco-Design Award. A special Eco-Design Award was presented to the UCLA team for their Prototype design. Their special design not only contributed to the fuel efficiency of their vehicle, but incorporated recycled and eco-friendly materials into the vehicle and production process.

  • Safety. The Safety Award recognized three teams who made the most extensive efforts to comply with the safety regulations of the Shell Eco-marathon Americas. This award went to UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Grand Rapids Technical School and Loyola Marymount University. These teams all demonstrated safety as a top priority in vehicle designs and construction.

  • Technical Innovation. This award was presented to three teams who demonstrated outstanding initiative and technical ingenuity along with optimal use of new materials in the drive train, chassis, instrumentation and tires. First prize was awarded to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, second prize to Purdue University and third prize to California Polytechnic State University.

  • Design. The 2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas Design Award was presented to the Brazilian team from Minas Gerais State University. This award recognized their innovative design research related to ergonomics, aesthetics, choice of materials and technical feasibility. The originality and overall coherence of their design were also taken into account.

  • Communications. This award recognized the Dalhousie University team from Canada, who made outstanding communications efforts concerning the Shell Eco-marathon. All actions throughout the year are taken into account: participation at trade shows, creation of a Web site and all other activities that successfully promote the competition, its name, its founding principle, its educational aspects, etc. in the team's country of origin.

  • Best Team Spirit. The Best Team Spirit Award was presented to the George M. Schurr High School team who fostered cooperation and collaboration among their team and others at the competition. Not only did they demonstrate initiative to learn more about other teams and contribute to the morale at the competition, they lent a tire to another team and helped a team in need whose car wasn’t ready to compete by loaning them one of their vehicles to participate in the challenge.

  • Perseverance in the Face of Adversity. The Perseverance in the Face of Adversity Award was presented to two teams: Chitkara Institute of Engineering & Technology in India and Louisiana State University. Both teams overcame many obstacles in order to make it to the Shell Eco-marathon Americas. The team from India not only traveled a very far distance to participate in the event, they also battled many issues with their vehicle, and the team from LSU overcame the loss of a team member, who passed away last year. The team dedicated their Shell Eco-marathon project to this team member, even naming their vehicle after her, Ellen.

The 2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas event sponsors included Autodesk, Michelin, Pennzoil and SKF USA Inc.

Shell has been running the Shell Eco-marathon in Europe for nearly 25 years. In 2007, the event was brought to the Americas. Shell Eco-Marathon Europe will be held 7-9 May at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz track in Germany, he Shell Eco-marathon Youth Challenge UK will take place on 30 June to 1 July 2009 at Rockingham Motor Speedway, and the first Eco-Marathon Asia will be held in Malaysia in July 2010.



I'm always amused by these crazy mileage claims, while the torque and horsepower information are notably absent. The smallest gas model airplane engine is going to get incredible mpg, but 0-60 in a full size (safe)commercial car or truck is going to take awhile. ...ejj...


Although they may not be very practical, they serve to show just how little energy could be used for personal transportation.

The problem with burning fossil fuels is not the burning itself, but the quantity of fuel burned.

These guys show what can be done if you go all out for efficiency. Even if a reasonable vehicle is 10x worse than the winner, it is still 270 mpg which is fantastic.

I think it is good to run these, even if it is just to show the incredible energy density of fossil fuels.


"Prototype. Solar Power. The Purdue Solar Racing team from Purdue University took first place with its solar vehicle, Pulsar, which achieved 4,913 mpg."

I am trying to figure out how you measure MPG with a solar powered car...


This is significantly better than I can get in my Civic, but I do not hyper-mile.
Also (apparently) last year Mater Dei High School, got 2,843 mpg.

Seriously this is incredible milage - I could find little on what they did (what CID? run-coast?, no pedal assist?).

They ARE really little vehicles.
See pix-info (last year's) at


So you think they are small???

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”




Yes, but how many cupholders did Yoda have?


"Nice cup, this is. Keep it, I will."


"Yes, but how many cupholders did Yoda have?"

I know you meant that as a joke but I can't help but think of cupholders in cars as a distraction. Driver distraction is the biggest cause of road based injury and sipping from your cup of java while driving is a distraction.

Andrey Levin

Ai vin:

This year breed of US sold Volvo cars offer automatic brake application when their radar/computer decides that rear end collision is due.

Frick, I do not want ABS, traction control, stability control, cruise, blind spot notification (my side mirrors do not have such) on my car, but this one I do want to have!

Will S

SJC asked;

I am trying to figure out how you measure MPG with a solar powered car...

The rules state, "... electricity consumption will be then converted into an equivalent consumption of Shell Gasoline and added to the engine consumption. This calculation will be performed using the net calorific value for this fuel, i.e. 42,900 kJ/kg."


Wish they would have specified how far and fast. I had to dig to find out some of it.
They recommended an average speed of 15mph.
7 laps around the track. I found a track map with radius of curvature specs, but I'm not sure if the "L"s marked on the track were segment lengths or what. I'll guess that each lap is ~1/4 mile.

Still, 2 miles at 15mph is challenging. I don't think they were allowed to use sails. And it clearly stated, "Pushing is Not Allowed"


Will S,

Thanks, I figured they would convert to energy units. The overall usage at the motors for distance traveled is what is measured.

Henry Gibson

I am surprized to find that such a large company as Shell does not understand that the energy in batteries or electricity from solar cells is two or more times more efficient at producing motion than the energy from gasoline. This is due to the well studied laws of thermodynamics. This makes the comparison of solar electric vehicle with combustion vehicles invalid in terms of miles per gallon. Tesla, Wrightspeed and AC populsion make this mistake also. If an engine is involved, thermal joules are not the same as electrical joules.

The solar comparison is biased also because the number of joules hitting the solar cells as sunlight is not measured, and if it were, solar vehicles would show very bad performance per joule input.

Fuel cells do not obey Carnot's principles. Zinc air batteries are a simplified example. If burnt in oxygen zinc will produce a certain number of joules of heat per gram and would produce a high temperature that could be used to run a steam engine for example. But the Zinc air battery does not need to operate hot to provide high efficiency. It is likely that a zinc air battery powered car would win the competition easily if the joules from the battery were measured.

It would likely also win if the raw joules in the Zinc used were measured as the joules released in burning the Zinc to the oxide.

Any electric battery powered car would win the race if the joules from the battery were measured as proposed in the rules and similar to solar cars. Two or three such cars should be run in future years if only as a demonstration. A single cell from a ZEBRA battery with a voltage converter could likely power such a vehicle for the whole race. Just add supercaps for acceleration.
Foam glass would be a good insulator.

For very little cost, modern micro controllers and electronic sensors could measure the joules sent to the wheels on any vehicle. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

Shell could have a contest for the most efficient fuel burning mechanical engine with an output greater than 0.5 kw (mechanical) but less than 1.0 kw at 5000 rpm or less.

The super large 100 rpm engines get %50. ..HG..

fred schumacher

The most important speed increase is from walking speed of 3 mph to 30 mph. That's an order of magnitude increase and is only half the normal highway speed of 60 mph. The Tata Nano was designed with this kind of performance in mind.

Thirty mph is a very functional speed. It would be useful for these supermileage contests to create a category for a 30 mph minimum transit speed. Such a contest would have real world usability.

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