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Meet the team that holds the world-record in extreme fuel efficiency

In this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Europe in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Microjoule is once again the team to beat in the Prototype petrol category.

Road to Rotterdam

Guillaume Himsworth is passionate about cars. Aged 19 he is studying engineering and applying his classroom knowledge in a unique hands-on competition in extreme fuel efficiency – Shell Eco-marathon Europe. The pressure is on.

His team, Microjoule La Joliverie of Nantes in France, has so far won the annual event 21 times. It holds the all-time Shell Eco-marathon record of driving the furthest on a single litre of petrol: an astonishing 3,771 km in 2009, equivalent to driving from Gibraltar to Stockholm.

“We try very hard to improve on each year’s performance,” says Guillaume. “Our competitors are getting better, so the challenge for us is to improve our car and stay ahead.”

The team to beat

In the run-up to this year’s competition in May in the Netherlands, Microjoule is once again the team to beat in the Prototype petrol category. So what lies behind the college’s success?

“The Microjoule project is so inspiring and important for our students that we’ve made it an integral part of every subject taught at the college,” says Mickaël Fardeau, a teacher at La Joliverie and technical manager for the Microjoule team.

Teachers and students work on assignments associated with the car during lessons and in their spare time throughout the college year. It is a great way for students to learn and bond into a team with each other and with the teachers, explains Mickaël.

Non-stop process

This year Mickaël is taking part in his 20th Shell Eco-marathon Europe, which makes him one of the most experienced participants in the competition. As soon as one year’s race is finished, he and his colleagues begin preparations for the next year’s race. “It’s a non-stop process,” he says.

Each race is carefully assessed and the data analysed to find ways to improve the performance of the Microjoule car.

Last year the Microjoule team won the Prototype petrol category with 2,980.3 km per litre equivalent, about 600 km/l more than its nearest rival. This year’s target is a modest 3,000 km/l, much lower than the all-time record, which was set at a less demanding circuit in 2009.

“The track has many bends and is very challenging,” says Aurélien Levesque, 21, the team’s driver. Like most Prototype drivers, Aurélien has to drive the car lying on his back in a cramped cockpit. This restricts his visibility and makes overtaking and cornering difficult.

“You never know what lies around the next bend. You have to be focused and prepared for everything,” he says. Cars that have broken down and congestion on the track are the main problems.

Microjoule team 2014

Success breeds success

As a result of its consistent success at Shell Eco-marathon Europe, La Joliverie has attracted local and multinational corporate partners who provide the team with support and expertise, such as advising on the car and fine tuning the electronic control unit.

In fact Shell Eco-marathon Europe has become such an important part of the college that La Joliverie has jointly developed a second vehicle with neighbouring Polytech Nantes.

Known as CityJoule the sleek blue UrbanConcept car is powered by twin hydrogen fuel cells and equipped with sophisticated electronics. It made its debut in last year’s competition and won its category by setting an all-time record of 145.7 km per kilowatt-hour equivalent.

FACT BOX

How does the competition work?

Student teams from all over the world design and build ultra-energy-efficient vehicles to see how far they can drive using the least amount of energy. There are two classes and seven fuel categories: the Prototype class focuses on maximum efficiency; the UrbanConcept class encourages more practical designs. The competition is staged every year in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Team facts

Team name: Microjoule La Joliverie

Average age: 20

Car name: Microjoule

Category: Prototype

Energy type: Gasoline

Main features: 100% carbon fibre body, small engine with high output

Years in competition: 27

Record: 3,771 km/l in 2009

Meet some of the team

Mickaël Fardeau

Mickaël Fardeau is a teacher and the team’s technical manager. Mickaël took part in his first Shell Eco-marathon Europe in 1992 and has missed only three competitions since his debut 22 years ago. His vast knowledge and experience brings continuity and expertise to the team. As a teacher he particularly enjoys the relationship that he and his students form while working as a team to evolve the car.

Aurélien Levesque

Aurélien Levesque, 21, is the team’s chief race strategist and driver for the second consecutive year. One of his most important qualities, he says with a smile, is his light weight – a prerequisite for a Prototype driver. Aurélien enjoys the hard work and long hours that the project entails and the pleasure that success in the competition brings.

Guillaume Himsworth

Guillaume Himsworth, 19, is already looking ahead at new ways to improve energy efficiency. He is finding a way to use the internal combustion engine to drive a generator which, in turn, powers the electric engine. It is scheduled for launch in 2016. Motorcycling, engines and sailing are his hobbies, whenever he gets the time. He values teamwork and team spirit, and enjoys the excitement of the race.