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What is the Shell Eco-marathon?

Shell Eco-marathon is an educational project that challenges competing student teams to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient vehicle. The winning vehicle is the one that travels the furthest using the least amount of fuel.

What are the competition categories?

  • Prototype: futuristic streamlined vehicles where the primary design consideration is reducing drag and maximising efficiency.
  • UrbanConcept: vehicles built to more conventional four-wheel roadworthy criteria.

Why does Shell organise the Shell Eco-marathon?

The Shell Eco-marathon aims to inspire engineering students to develop new approaches to sustainable mobility and fuel efficiency.

It is a major educational project that encourages and fosters innovation in which students work together to explore potential solutions to both current and future transport and energy challenges.

Shell is committed to help promoting efficient energy use, addressing environmental concerns linked to the use of fossil fuels, understanding current patterns of consumption and exploring alternative energies.

The Shell Eco-marathon is a visible demonstration of Shell’s commitment to face head-on the growing demand for energy worldwide in a responsible way, and is an invitation to others to do the same.

Where does the Shell Eco-marathon concept originate?

It all began back in the 1939 as the ‘Shell Mileage Marathon’ when a group of  Shell engineers at a Group laboratory in the United States challenged one another organised an internal competition to see whose car gave the best mileage.

The idea was resurrected several decades later and served as the inspiration for the introduction of the first Shell Eco-marathon Europe, in 1995.

What is the UrbanConcept category? Can these cars be used on public roads?

In 2003 Shell created the special Urban Concept category to broaden the challenge. Until then students focused uniquely on developing prototypes, with the main design criteria of building the most aerodynamic and fuel-efficient vehicle possible. The introduction of the Urban Concept category asked students to look at developing fuel-efficient solutions that could be applied to the cars of today.

Unlike Prototype vehicles, all Urban Concept cars must meet a series of roadworthiness criteria found in modern passenger vehicles (such as having four wheels, a steering wheel, head and tail lights, a brake pedal, doors, etc.).

What energy sources are used in the Shell Eco-marathon competition?

Either conventional fuels (such as diesel, petrol and liquefied petroleum gas), or alternative fuels (such as solar, electric, hydrogen, ethanol, biofuels and gas to liquids) can be used to power vehicles.

In 2003 alternative energy sources were introduced to the Shell Eco-marathon, opening up new environmental perspectives for this unique competition. The term "alternative energy" includes all non-fossil energy sources like hydrogen, solar energy, ethanol and fuels derived from biomass.

Who finances the teams?

Sourcing independent financing is one of the key challenges for the teams. Students are required to secure funding and secure technical partnerships with third partners in order bring their project to fruition. Much funding is typically secured in the form of sponsorship deals, under which sponsors’ logos feature on team vehicles.

Shell provides the teams with:

  • Basic travel allowance that is calculated according to the distance travelled to the event;
  • Components and construction materials at cost price, either subsidised by Shell or provided by the partners of the Shell Eco-marathon;
  • On-site facilities (such as camping) either free of charge or at the lowest possible rates.

Shell actively aids teams in other ways, providing crucial non-financial support. For example, we offer advice on how best to secure funding and engage partners through effective communications. We also provide teams with a unique access point and in-house expertise for whatever questions teams may have in developing their projects.

Are technologies developed for the vehicles applied outside the Shell Eco-marathon?

The objective of Shell Eco-marathon is to encourage students to think about and develop practical solutions that can help answer mobility and energy challenges of today and tomorrow. Examples of practical technological innovations developed so far by the student teams include:

  • A prototype equipped with a fuel cell and a system to recover energy from braking;
  • A diesel engine equipped with a temperature control system;
  • An liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) engine that was made non-flammable by the use of insulation material;
  • A 100% efficient hydrogen fuel cell technique patented by a Danish team in 2006.

Of course, most of the vehicles designed for the Shell Eco-marathon will not provide any ready-made solutions to mobility issues and will likely remain at the prototype stage.

What kind of prizes can be won?

A first prize is awarded in both the Prototype or Urban Concept categories, for the combustion and fuel cell vehicles that post the best fuel economy figure, regardless of the energy source used.