One hundred high school and university student teams from across North and South America are set to roll into Sonoma Raceway this spring to test their designs for ultra-energy-efficient vehicles.
Contestants in the 12th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition were announced Tuesday. Nearby institutions participating include Sacramento State University, University of California at Berkeley and California Polytechnic State University. It’s part of the Make the Future California event April 19–22.
Make the Future California is a series of events held throughout to inspire innovation, collaboration and conversation about energy challenges, according to Shell.
At the heart of these events is Shell Eco-marathon, said to be one a major energy-efficiency competitions for students. Contests also are set for next month in Singapore and for May in London.
Originally started by company engineers in 1939, the competition has expanded in the past 30 years to encourage future engineers and scientists to go the farthest with the least amount of energy. In 2007, the event came to the Americas, starting at California Speedway in Fontana. Student designs have eked out efficiency as high as 3,500 miles per gallon of fuel.
“We are excited to return to California, a hub for technology and innovation, as we bring together students, energy entrepreneurs and global and local partners to demonstrate collaboration and ignite conversations about how to meet the growing energy demand while reducing future (carbon dioxide) emissions,” said Bruce Culpepper, Shell Oil U.S. chairman and president. “These ambitious students from all over the Americas have been preparing for the ultimate energy-efficiency challenge, and their bright ideas and innovations on the track show us all what could be possible for the energy solutions of the future.”
More than 1,000 students from across the Americas have worked for months to plan and construct their ultra-energy-efficient vehicles. By maximizing elements such as streamlined design, lightweight materials and driving strategy, teams aim to set new fuel-efficiency records in two Shell Eco-marathon competitions at Sonoma Raceway in April:
• Shell Eco-marathon Mileage Challenge: Students compete to go the farthest on the least amount of fuel.
• Shell Eco-marathon Drivers' World Championship Regional Final: Students compete on energy-efficiency and speed. The regional champion goes on to the Drivers' World Championship Grand Final, which will be held in London in May.
Student teams can compete in one of two vehicle categories:
• Prototype: Ffuturistic, streamlined vehicles designed purely to reduce friction and maximize efficiency.
• UrbanConcept: “Roadworthy” energy-efficient vehicles.
For both vehicle categories in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas event, teams can choose to compete with one of three drivetrains based on five official energy sources:
• Internal combustion: gasoline, diesel and ethanol
• Hydrogen fuel cell
• Battery electric technologies
Participating teams in 2018 include the Université Laval from Quebec, Canada, which last year recorded 2,731.1 miles per gallon with its ultra-energy-efficient gasoline powered prototype vehicle for first place in their energy and vehicle category. Last year’s runners-up, Brigham Young University and Mater Dei High School from Evansville, Indiana, will also be heading to Sonoma Raceway in April.
This year’s UrbanConcept competitors will include Mater Dei Supermileage Team, returning for a 12th year. The team earned top energy-efficiency stats last year: 723.4 miles per gallon in its gasoline-powered vehicle. Minnesota’s Saint Thomas Academy, Alden-Conger High School and New York’s Newburgh Free Academy, last years’ podium placers, will also compete again this year.
Louisiana Tech University, which won the Vehicle Design Award in 2017 with a custom-designed UrbanConcept car, is aiming to take the top honors at Sonoma Raceway. This year, the team has partnered with Louisiana Tech’s School of Design to enhance branding and promotion for the team and represent the new era of the program.
Other events of Make the Future California:
• Powering Progress Together, April 19: This year in San Francisco, Shell will convene “leading thinkers” for “a conversation about the future of energy.”
• Synergy food truck display: Shell Eco-marathon students developed the Synergy Truck to re-imagine every aspect of the food truck experience using new energy technologies, including gravity-powered lights and a mat that produces power by patrons’ footsteps.
• Shell B2B Showcase: The New Energies group based in San Francisco, showcasing hydrogen and electric automotive mobility; Shell Lubricants and its hyper-fuel-efficient class 8 tractor-trailer, Starship; and the nearby Martinez refinery.