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Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014

For two student teams, the bustle, energy and noise of the cavernous car preparation area inside the George R. Brown Convention Center in central Houston is becoming a second home. For the last seven years, the students have come to drive their self-built cars the furthest on the least fuel. Both teams have won top prizes.

The Alérion Supermileage team from Quebec’s Université Laval returns in 2014 with its petrol Prototype car, CT2.0.  Laval set the record last year with a mileage equivalent of 3,587 miles – enough to drive from London, England to Cairo, Egypt – per gallon of petrol (gasoline). It was the fourth year out of the last five that the Canadians have dominated with the top overall mileage figure.

Team from Universite Laval

Team from Universite Laval getting their vehicle ready for the competition in Houston

Laval still faces challenges: with many new members on the 11-strong team, leader Audrey Lainé has been devoting extra time preparing them for Houston. The team has also been focused on refining the car’s systems for even better performance.

“We’ve improved engine management and added a new electronic controller,” she says. “We hope the new systems deliver the improved fuel consumption rates we’ve planned.”

Three from Mater Dei

SuperMileage from Mater Dei high school, Evansville, Indiana, is another team with an enviable record: two first place finishes and two second in 2013. This year they are running three cars, two on conventional petrol and one on battery electric.

The team has worked to make its winning UrbanConcept car, Elroy, even more competitive. It has swapped the metal front-wheel rims for carbon fibre to shed weight and boost efficiency. A new, computerised speedometer will help the driver hold the best speed, while stiffer axles lower bending-induced drag. The team also smoothed the fit on the doors and body panels for cleaner air flow.  The petrol Prototype car, dubbed Gen 9, has an electric engine starter this year along with a computerised speedometer. Gen 8, the electric Prototype, sports new solar panels and power controller.

Mater Dei prototype on track

New kids on the block

In contrast to the leader board toppers, the seven students from Citrus College are new to the competition. Based in Glendora, a city about 60 kilometres (35 miles west) of Los Angeles, USA, they make up the Citrus Automotive and Physics Eco-marathon (CAPE) team and call themselves the CAPE Owls, after the school’s mascot.  Their car, a petrol Prototype entry, is named Citrus EV8. It’s powered by a highly modified scooter motor housed in a streamlined body.

The CAPE Owls were part of a recent California send-off event at the famed Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  There they met other student teams, learned about their vehicles and designs, and built a support network that may help in Houston.

In all, more than 1,000 students from both North and South America will compete with their creations in a dozen different prize categories divided by energy source and car body style.

Shell Eco-marathon Americas gets under way with team registration at the Brown Convention Center beginning at 8:00 AM Thursday, 24 April and runs through Sunday, 27 April.

Team facts

Vehicle: Prototype, petrol

Team name: Alérion Supermileage

Car name:  CT2.0

Number of team members at the event: 11

They hold the all-time Shell Eco-marathon Americas mileage record of 3,587 miles per gallon, set in 2013.

Vehicles: UrbanConcept, petrol; Prototype, petrol; Prototype battery electric

Team name: Mater Dei Supermileage, Mater Dei Supermileage 2, Mater Dei Supermileage 3

Car names: UrbanConcept: Elroy; Prototype, petrol: Gen 9; Prototype, battery electric: Gen 8

Number of team members at the event:  19

They achieved the highest UrbanConcept mileage at the Americas event with 846 mpg set in 2013.

Vehicle: Prototype, petrol

Team name: CAPE Owls

Vehicle name:  Citrus EV8

Number of team members at event: 7

This is the first Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition for the Citrus College team.