Super mileage competition nets 7,148 MPG

by Benjamin Jones on March 15, 2008

Every year Shell sponsors something they call the “Eco-Marathon,” which invites teams to build the most fuel efficient car possible in order to compete in a race where the goal is to use the least amount of fuel possible.

The team pictured won competitions in both 2006 and 2007 getting as high as 7,148 MPG. While the competitions and cars entered may seem a little silly, there is a lot to be learned from these vehicles. It’s certainly worth checking out the competition, and the 2008 Eco-Marathon will be held from May 22nd to May 24th in Europe. You can find the official Shell website here and look for news when that time rolls around.

Here’s what Shell says about the purpose of the competition:

To design and build a vehicle that will use the least fuel and produce the fewest emissions possible.

Conventional fuels such as diesel, petrol and LPG, as well as alternative fuels such as solar, electric, hydrogen and biomass can power the vehicles.

More after the break.

How do they manage such high mileage and why should I care?

This is where it gets a bit interesting. These cars usually don’t get such good mileage, but this type of competition often yields winners in the 1,000 MPG+ range, so it’s definitely worth looking into the design of these vehicles.

The first thing to notice is the size: these cars do everything to reduce the size of the vehicle, the engine, and the wheels. Bigger vehicles need to move more air and oftentimes require larger wheel, both things which create drag and kill vehicle mileage.

Also, it’s important to note how slippery these vehicles are. Besides being extremely small, they have an extremely low coefficient of drag, which is key to reducing fuel consumption.

Certainly and overly simplistic look at things, but suffice it to say that I hope these fantastic engineers (much smarter people than me!) make it into the auto industry and introduce some great ideas like we see on display here.

For more photos, videos, and podcasts, check out the Shell site here.

Soure: Gas2.0

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 smurf March 15, 2008 at 6:54 pm

That’s great see that people are working on cars that can get over triple what the average cars get now.

2 andrew March 16, 2008 at 12:48 pm

nice – at the above rate (three times the gas mileage) gas will be about back to “normal” prices (around $1.10 a gallon).

while this is a step in the right direction, it’s still swimming in the river of denial…alternative fuel anyone? how far can this thing go on a bushel of corn?

3 Fernando March 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm

“extremely low coefficient of drag, which is key to reducing fuel economy.”

low drag is key to INCREASING fuel economy

or

low drag is key to REDUCING fuel CONSUMPTION

4 Dave March 16, 2008 at 12:54 pm

more like 285x

5 anon March 16, 2008 at 12:55 pm

hope you’re joking, smurf. over triple what the average car gets? you’re saying the average car now gets between 350 and 2,000+ mpg? it’s more like 30-40, bud. what the hell are you driving?

6 Anonymous March 16, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I they can get over 7,000 mpg, why the heck am I stuck here at 35 mpg (and most people don’t even get that, depending on the car they drive)!?!

7 nyah March 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm

7,148 MPG.. and we’re bitching about making 35 MPG an industry standard? Show me some real cars that could plausibly wean us off fossil fuels.

8 Anon March 16, 2008 at 1:07 pm

1000+ MPG and country-boy engineers bitch that anything over 50 is impossible.

9 Alan March 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

“…which is key to reducing fuel economy.”

Do you mean reducing fuel consumption -or- increasing fuel economy?

10 what March 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

lol uhm yeah you could say it’s “over triple” what they get now. To get a tad bit closer to reality you would say they get over 30 TIMES the mileage most cars get today. Over 230 times for the 7,000mpg one….but sure, over triple will work too.

11 Cam March 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Haha… triple?

More like… 30x to 250x.

12 gg March 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I think it’s important to note that this sort of MPG isn’t simply a product of the car itself, but also the driver. They are driving in an incredibly efficient manner – if this car was put in the hands of the average layman, that number wouldn’t be nearly as high.

13 brian March 16, 2008 at 1:52 pm

low drag *increases* fuel economy (typo in article it seems)

14 Sustainable Builder March 16, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Most people don’t realize that the oil companies are some of the biggest investors in alternative fuels and fuel efficient technologies. These guys plan on being energy providers for years to come regardless the source. Great post – those numbers are gaudy.

15 Pedantic March 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm

which is key to INCREASING fuel economy
or
which is key to reducing fuel CONSUMPTION

fix please =)

16 Mr Ferret March 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Triple!, these chaps are getting the same milage as 119 standard honda hybrids!

hurrah

17 Tony Fendall March 16, 2008 at 2:33 pm

If “solar electric” is one of the allowable power sources, surely you could finish the course having used 0 gallons of fuel…

18 h2drive March 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

smurf: The car mentioned gets more than 100 times than what the average of commercial vehicles is today.

19 Phil March 16, 2008 at 3:12 pm

triple?? 7,000 mpg is much more than triple..lets say the average is 25mpg……7000mpg is 280 times more efficient.

20 bad with english March 16, 2008 at 3:20 pm

key to reducing fuel economy?

i thought the goal is to increase fuel economy.

21 Craig Patterson March 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Great job guys!!

22 Jef March 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm

“Besides being extremely small, they have an extremely low coefficient of drag, which is key to reducing fuel economy.”

Reducing fuel economy is the name of the game?

23 davevano March 16, 2008 at 5:09 pm

To design and build a vehicle that will use the least fuel and produce the fewest emissions possible.

24 JayDee March 16, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Um, it’s easy to get 348975987 MPG when there are no safety features in these vehicles. We could easily get to the 100MPG mark today if people didn’t absolutely demand air conditioning, a dozen air bags, crumple zones, power steering, power brakes, power mirrors, rear-window defrosters, dozens of lights, GPS, built in phones, 8-speaker sound systems, built-in DVD players to keep the kids occupied, etc, etc, etc.

The 200 MPG car is a reality with today’s technology, but nobody is willing to take the chance that some jackass in a Hummer isn’t going to plow through a red light and turn them into street pizza.

25 John March 16, 2008 at 6:26 pm

They’ve been doing this for years.
It’s just for show, and has as much in common with your car as a dragster does.

These kind of “cars” seat one person laying prone, are built mainly out of bicycle parts and fiberglass or carbon fiber and go 15-20 miles per hour. They have a 1 quart fuel tank, and run on a perfectly smooth track, which is needed as they have generally have no suspension.

Oh, and they would be instant death in a collision with a real car.

26 yeahright March 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Yeah, the oil companies invest a crap load of money into buying up patents that never see the light of day. The only reason is to help protect their Billion dollar profits.

27 yeahsowhat March 16, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Yeah, but what happens when it runs into a tree?

28 Acronyms March 16, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Can I buy one that makes 1000 MPG?

29 Harry Potter's Midwife March 17, 2008 at 3:46 am

Those are European gallons, which are LARGER than US gallons and those doing 35mpg are doing it on Euro gallons or in diesel vehicles.

Nuff said…

30 Chris March 17, 2008 at 5:50 am

Hmmmm, I want to see the guy driving in to work beside me in his hummer in one of these…whatever the numbers the bottom line is, these cars and much of this technology is not viable for the average american consumer…where concepts of “Style” and “Prestige” out weigh any modicum of sanity…then again i would hate to see what is left of one of these after being run over by aforementioned Hummer, because the driver was talking on his cell phone while lighting a cigarette and opening his coffee…

31 Jaime March 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm

I think most people would be more concerned about safety in a vehicle like that than style.

32 Keith March 17, 2008 at 6:14 pm

how close are we to mass produced vehicles with such fuel economy, even 714 mpg?

33 Alex C March 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Hi All. I am VP and project leader for the Supermileage Vehicle team at UCLA. Our car last year achieved 824mpg at the Shell Ecomarathon in California and 832mpg at the SAE Supermileage Competition in Michigan.

To answer some of the criticism in the comments, it would be pretty painful if it hit a tree, but the driver has a 4point seatbelt and helmet, and there is a foam crunch zone in the front. Also, note that the vehicles travel between 10 and 20 mph on the track, which not only makes it safer but helps with the mpgs!

Indeed instant death in collision with a real car going more than 45mph. Our car last year weighed in at 96 pounds w/o driver.

When people ask me if its practical, I tell them that we are building the car as an engineering project and an exercise in team work, design and fabrication. It is exactly that.

I can’t speak for all the teams, but our team at UCLA designs every part of the car, save the bicycle wheels, brakes and engine, which actually leaves a lot. We have to design in such a way that we can actually fabricate the car with the resources we have. We also run analysis on the car, for strength and aerodynamics. It is quite a challenge but the process is so much fun.

34 O'Riley Farms March 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

ya’ll go for your little fuel friendly vehicles, i am happily content gettin 10 MPG and paying out the ass for it, cause when push comes to shove mine will out perform those in all aspects ( but MPG’s). you’ll never see a vehilcle that gets more than 27 MPG on a farm because little hotwheels can’t pull or have a well working 4 wheel drive system

35 mwulfeck March 19, 2008 at 3:38 am

Interesting Like Most Articles with this level of seduction.
If this works, the Shell event participant could make a deal, make the car and become one of world’s leading ( evil as they are) automotive manufactures nearly overnight. It means absolutely “nothing” if these vehicles are not rolling off the assembly line of some plant within 18 months. The public could care less about speculation. They want something in their driveways which “actually’ works for them in their daily lives. I am perfectly willing to become a “beta” test market participant. I Love Implemented Genius.

36 Skippy March 19, 2008 at 3:47 am

Euro gallons are bigger than US gallons?, 7000 MPH is 3 times the normal ?…………My goodness what has the educational system done to you people.

Fact is Europe doesn’t have gallons (England has a hybrid system), it’s liters. The US is the land of dopes that can’t get with the program and fiqure out the metric system. We are in leauge with mental powerhouses like Liberia and Myanmar (the only 3 in the world).

This 7000 MPG “car” is great but who cares, they have been doing this for years. It is a pointless exercise, just like wacking it to your sister. It may be nice but you’re never going to get it.

How about a competiton where these idiots take standard “off the lot cars” say a Ford Bronco or some other SUV and modify it to get better mileage. Imagine what would happen if one of these folks fiqured out how to incease mileage in existing cars to 100 or 200 miles a gallon?
That is where the time should be spent.

AMEM Brother

37 Russell March 19, 2008 at 4:00 am

Oil companies and Car producers have always bought up the patents of high mpg systems and squashed the technology. I remember 18 cent a gallon reg and 20 cent ethyl (premium to you youngsters) As far as actually getting people to use these vehicles, they won’t, no frills, in these things, though I would certainly use one, there’s not many like me.(old school) there again if I could get everyone to go back to horses I would ride one of them as well.

38 SVOboy March 19, 2008 at 8:00 am

First off, thank you all for the comments!

I made an awful typo in there that most of you noticed, but I got it corrected, so thanks for pointing that out!

Also, as many of you have noted, these Eco-Marathons are great for high mileage, but none of the vehicles are practical on the street. The real gem lies in training young engineers and finding the nuances in things like aerodynamics that can be applied to real life.

Once again, thanks for the read!

-Benjamin

39 ronald baldwin March 19, 2008 at 8:31 pm

regardless of whether or not it is not safe it proves that the auto dealers do not care for average joe! they can get over 100 miles per gallon easily if they wanted diesels get 80mpg in europe but usa wont let them in also once youget to coast speed you could switch over to a stirling engine using waste heat so many things you could do the waste heat is being ignored and the regenerative braking is not even used so it is a money thing and probably bribes going on to keep the mileage lower. those liars the devil is the god of this world and he will do whatever he can to keep you in bondage even. this proves they are a bunch of liars for sure. 7000 miles per gallon proves everything and the guy who rode in this is he still alive? yes i am sure add some saftey and maybe get what? 500 miles per gallon?

40 cigarettes July 7, 2008 at 7:41 am

Looking at this car I’m realizing that I must have missed a period of my life! Has the aliens reached the Earth?

41 Ryan November 3, 2008 at 8:36 am

yea whatever like were going to ride those

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