Rotterdam 2015

The track competition is under way at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe, the 30th anniversary event of the ultimate energy-efficiency driving challenge. Shell CEO Ben van Beurden flagged the teams off at the start of two days of driving challenges, the last to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The competition’s new location is official: London will host Shell Eco-marathon Europe in 2016.

As the 3pm opening ceremony came to a close, 164 cars had made it through technical inspection, leaving 23 still trying as team Marci from André Citroën school in France went on track with their Prototype diesel, the first to compete. They were closely followed by the Prototype gasoline Iron Warriors from Poland and ECO-DIMONI from Spain with their Prototype battery electric car.

All qualifying teams now have four attempts to pull off their best fuel-efficient driving performance. They need to complete 10 laps of the circuit for an attempt to be valid.

Impatient for action

Already at 6am, Belgian team EcoMOTION and their ethanol-powered Prototype car – fifth in their category last year with 1060km/l equivalent – stood at the front of the queue for the track. Three hours passed until it opened for final practice laps, on schedule.

“Soon ready to start the engine,” read the upbeat tweet from DTU Roadrunners, whose UrbanConcept ethanol car caught fire a day before. The 2014 category-winners had spent hours rewiring their car. Can they save the day and win again?

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This year looks much better for team SCB-MADI, the only team competing from Russia. In 2014, they won the off-track award for perseverance and spirit after their spare engine was confiscated by customs officials and their crankshaft broke. Against all odds, they fixed the crankshaft and drove one lap. 

Their Prototype gasoline car MADleco-2 has a new interior and has already made it through technical inspection. Team member Andrey Sotskov is confident of clocking up a valid run.

Look out for…

The coveted Prototype gasoline category is up for grabs as 10-time winners Microjoule-La Joliverie move over to Prototype CNG. (Watch out for them and fellow French competitors team Callo, previously runner-up in Prototype ethanol.)

Hot tips in the Prototype gasoline this year are French team IFMA eco-challenge (2187.8 km/l equivalent in 2014, taking second place) and Remmi-Team from Finland (1956.6 km/l in 2014, coming fourth). 

Remmi-Team, have been waiting for victory since the very start of Shell Eco-marathon Europe in 1985, before its current team members were born. This year they are going for a win. “It would be great to be among the top teams because it takes a lot of hard work and effort to get here,” said team captain Taneli Heikkilä.

 Building the perfect body

“Some of this year’s more impressive developments are in the UrbanConcept category,” said technical team member Mike Evans, who normally oversees Shell fuels development for Ferrari.

From Østfold University College in Norway, Johannes Martin Gylseth and his team-mates built team Øuc Shell Eco’s perfectly-formed UrbanConcept car in 10 weeks, sticking 10cm-thick Styrofoam slices together, like a giant loaf of bread. Then they carved and smoothed it to form the perfect mould for its fibreglass body. But that’s not all.

“We aim to create a 100% recyclable car,” said Johannes. “We are reusing a seat from an older car, and even the fibreglass can be added to concrete at the end of its life.” Ethanol made from plentiful, renewable Norwegian forest wood is their power source.

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For Europe participants

If you’re a participant or want to join Shell Eco-marathon Europe, see all you need to know about the competition.