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At three locations around the world, teams take up the challenge to drive the furthest on the least energy. In 2012 two events will take place on urban streets: in Houston, Texas, USA, and Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Shell Eco-marathon Asia will take place on the Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The competition is split into two classes. The Prototype class focuses on maximum efficiency, while passenger comfort takes a back seat. The UrbanConcept class encourages more practical designs.. Cars enter one of seven categories to run on conventional petrol and diesel, biofuels, fuel made from natural gas (GTL), hydrogen, solar or electricity.

Over several days, teams make as many attempts as possible to travel the furthest on the equivalent of one litre of fuel. Cars drive a fixed number of laps around the circuit at a set speed. Organisers calculate their energy efficiency and name a winner in each class and for each energy source.

Off-track awards are given for other achievements including safety, teamwork, design, and technical innovation.

The competition inspires the engineers of the future to turn their vision of sustainable mobility into reality, if only for a few days. It also sparks passionate debate about what could one day be possible for cars on the road.

Innovation in a 3D Prototype car

3D prototype car, from Microjoule

The Microjoule car from St Joseph La Joliverie, Nantes, France, has achieved the equivalent of 3,771 km/l (8,869.94 mpg). Discover its design features.

  • The car weighs 30kg (66 lbs), around 33 times lighter than an average family car in Europe.
  • The chassis is built from autoclave carbon, which is lightweight and strong.
  • The shape resembles a drop of water.
  • The nose area is 0.3m2 (3.3 feet2) for better aerodynamics.
  • A fireproof bulkhead keeps the driver safe in the event of a fire.
  • A safety harness holds in the driver in the event of a collision.
  • The car is designed to run on either petrol or ethanol.
  • The minimum weight for a driver is 50 kg (110 lbs)