Although the mileage turned in by the top performers in Shell Eco-marathon Americas may be eye-popping—typically about 2,000 miles per gallon (846 kilometers per liter)—the student competitors in the European edition of the competition achieve triple the fuel economy. (Last year’s European winner turned in a performance of 6,663.2 mpg (2,832.8 km/l). (See “French Teams from Loire Valley Grab Top Prizes in Shell Eco-marathon Europe.“)
That’s not only because the schools have more years of experience (the May contest in Rotterdam will be the 28th year for Shell Eco-marathon Europe), but because the top teams custom-build their engines rather than buy off-the-shelf equipment for under the hood. However, one of the traditionally high-performing teams in the Americas competition, Université Laval of Québec City, Canada, does typically build its engine from scratch. Its Alerion Supermileage team won the 2011 competition in Houston with a best run of 2,564.8 mpg (1,090 km/l). (See “Breaking 2,500 mpg, Canadian Team Wins High-Efficiency Race”)
But as fourth-year mechanical engineering student Phillipe Bouchard explains in this video as his teammates work on their fuel injection system outside of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, the custom-built approach is not without challenges.
The team was able to get the car working again, and on Saturday afternoon Alerion Supermileage was in first place among 16 cars in the gasoline prototype category, breaking previous marks at Shell Eco-marathon Americas with a 3,001 mpg (1,276 km/l) run. The competition continues in downtown Houston through Sunday.