The record-setting electric car, designed and built by Mater Dei High School students of Evansville, Indiana, achieved 68 miles per kilowatt hour in testing Friday – the best result in the Battery Electric category on record at Shell Eco-marathon Americas. By achieving first place in its category, the Mater Dei team earned their place on the grid for an exciting Shell Eco-marathon Drivers’ World Championship Qualifier.
On the back stretch of the eighth and final lap of the qualifier race, Mater Dei’s beetle-shaped red car with white racing stripe surged past a diesel-powered car from Wawasee High School, in Syracuse, Indiana. “He had quite a lot of energy left, and I was telling him to go for it,” said Mater Dei team captain Dylan Pfaffmann, who was on the radio with his driver, Darian Kuhn.
But the jet-black Wawasee car had also rationed its fuel wisely and quickly snatched the lead back with just enough remaining to hold off a late charge from Mater Dei down the race’s home stretch, as Wawasee students cheered from the grandstand.
The top three finishing schools of the Drivers’ World Championship Qualifier earn a trip to London to go head-to-head with teams from Europe and Asia. It will mark a return to London for Mater Dei, which finished third in the 2018 Drivers’ World Championship. Alden-Conger High School, from Minnesota, also qualified.
While Indiana teams dominated the Urban Concept category, Illinois teams excelled in the Prototype category. The top mark in overall efficiency belonged to a team from Northern Illinois University, achieving 1,525 miles per gallon in their torpedo-shaped gasoline-powered car. In the Battery Electric category, a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne posted the best result, with 152 miles per kilowatt hour.
After participating in eight of the prior 13 years that Shell Eco-marathon Americas has been staged, it was the first time Northern Illinois won top honors in their category.
“It really means everything,” said team leader, Josh Helsper. “It validates all the engineering we’ve learned and the work we’ve done – it makes it all worthwhile.”
Shell Eco-marathon Americas which opened April 4, saw 88 teams representing 28 high schools and 60 colleges from eight countries descend on the Sonoma Raceway. In addition to prizes for energy efficiency, teams were awarded prizes for engineering, design, safety, communications, and perseverance and spirit.