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Day 5: Competitions continue

A burst of cheering sounds across the Ahoy arena: French Team Microjoule has just achieved 3,315 km on a single litre of fuel equivalent in their petrol-powered Prototype. This is the best distance ever achieved on the urban track in Rotterdam.  

Dedicated students queued from 06:00 this morning, only to be allowed on track for the first Prototype competitive run at 12:30. “It’s a long time to wait, but the advantage is that we get to be the first car to drive on an empty track,” says Michelle Loo of Team Toulouse Ingénierie Multidisciplinaire of France. Last year they came first in the ethanol category and second overall, with 2846.2 km/l equivalent.

Shell Eco-marathon Europe - driver in car

Cruising through

While top teams have their eyes on the prize, others are more laidback. What looks like a small Citroën 2CV car belongs to Team Smart Power Urban from Poland. Its battery-electric UrbanConcept entry is covered with newspaper. The reason why? “It’s fun!” says team member Adam Ruvañsk, leaning on a part of the car showing a Polish salad recipe. The car was out on track yesterday but stopped part-way round. “Hopefully we will do better on our second attempt,” says Adam.

Team ENIT ECO CAR is the only team from Tunisia, with just four members. After spotting the competition on the Internet, they were keen to compete. The students failed to pass technical inspection but their spirits were lifted by a visit from the Tunisian ambassador.

“We are very proud to be here,” says Wassim Guerfala. “Next time we will show what our country can do!”

Whatever each team’s individual goal, they all see the educational benefit of the competition.

It’s taking part that counts

Team CUC Racing brings together renewable energy engineering students from the University of Exeter with design students from the University of Falmouth in the UK. While the competition is not an official part of their degrees, Christopher Hale, head mechanical engineer, says: “The car gives us the chance for some hands-on experimenting.”

They have one of the heaviest Prototype cars in the competition, with a body made from plywood and a weighty hydrogen fuel cell. “The wood was cheap and we could cut the parts in a day,” says Christopher. “We also want to promote sustainable materials.” The team is only aiming for half the full 10 laps needed for an official attempt.

A taste of the future

Fellow UK students, Team Mechanical Derby 2013, also see this as a valuable project. They arrived to discover they were not allowed to compete, as they had failed to design their own motor controller as required by the rules. But they remain upbeat.

“Just being here and seeing the quality and standard of the cars competing has been a massive learning curve,” says Lee Fakunmoju. “It’s inspiring to see that you don’t have to be a big car company to make an energy-efficient vehicle that works.”

Today Jet Bussemaker, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, visited the event. “Shell’s approach is refreshing,” says Bussemaker. “If we want to reach the younger generation it is important that companies let students explore their talents, give them a taste of technology, a taste of what they can become in the future.”

Cars on track at the Shell Eco-marathon in Rotterdam