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Day 5 Morning: UrbanConcept competition begins

The French are out in front on day two of the three-day competition for energy efficiency at the Ahoy arena in Rotterdam. Firm favourites to win the Prototype petrol category are Team Microjoule-La Joliverie of France. Yesterday afternoon at their first attempt the team set a new track record of 3,191.7 km/l. This is an improvement of 211.4 km/1 on the previous track record, also set by Microjoule.

“The team and car managed a perfect race,” says technical manager Mickaël Fardeau. “This afternoon we hope to set a new record in our second run.”

Team WESTEAM from I.U.T Brest more than doubled the winning Prototype GTL distance from last year, achieving 680.6 km/l equivalent compared to 314.6 km/l. And that was just their first attempt.

Lady driver getting ready

“Our approach is simple,” says team lead Andre Mevel. “The car must be light, with low friction and a good engine – of course we also rely on a good driver!”

The UrbanConcept vehicles, which more closely resemble everyday cars, took to the track for competition today. In the UrbanConcept hydrogen category, team La Joliverie Polytech Nantes of France, the sister team to Microjoule-La Joliverie, set a new urban circuit record. They achieved 148.2 km/l equivalent, an improvement of 2.5 km/l equivalent on the previous Rotterdam record.

The magic measuring tent

At 09:00 this morning Mike Evans was directing the UrbanConcept cars into a giant tent behind the start line. Before taking to the track cars must first be rolled to the correct station where technical teams check the levels of petrol or diesel or, for those powered by alternative fuels, that the electronics or hydrogen fuel cell are in good condition.

“We reset the joule meters or check that the cars are filled with fuel,” says Mike. “Then we take second readings once the cars come back from the track to calculate how much energy they have used.”

A low white car covered in silver blankets slips silently past. Team ProTRON from Germany came second last year in the battery-electric category. They hope to take advantage of today’s sunshine to top up their battery by 20% using solar power. For now they are keeping the panels covered while the car is checked: competitors must only expose the panels at the start line and cover them as soon as they finish a circuit so the energy use can be accurately measured.

Mike usually works for Shell on fuel development for F1. For the top teams running on liquid fuels at Shell Eco-marathon – those that achieve over 1,500 km/l equivalent – he uses the same method of fuel measurement as for race cars. The fuel tank, pipe and injector are held in a clamp and weighed on electronic scales.

“This approach takes four times longer than measuring the volume of fuel,” says Mike. “But weighing is more accurate: we calculate the result to the nearest 0.015 ml.”

Distance isn’t everything

For many students the on-track competition is only part of the story. Each year Team AFORP from France runs a special project around the car. Last year they focused on recycling, with a car shell built entirely from recycled drinks cans. This year they educated local primary school children about the project and invited them to draw the car – the children’s designs now cover the car’s body. Last year the team was nominated for the Shell Eco-marathon off-track Communications award but they didn’t complete the official on-track run needed.

“We’re crossing our fingers!” says team supervisor Miguel Nieto.

Follow all the results live

Car on the track in Rotterdam