Quebecois College Students Build Car Capable of 2,713 Miles Per Gallon

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
quebecois college students build car capable of 2 713 miles per gallon

Students from the Université Laval of Quebec won the the 11th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Detroit for the second time in a row last month. The energy-efficient gasoline powered prototype managed an impressive 2713.1 miles per gallon on an internal combustion motor. However, the unit was only a two horsepower engine and spent the majority of its journey coasting at low speeds.

Encouraging automotive innovation should always be praised but, considering Shell’s guidelines for these events, one would hope for more. The competition has university students designing a prototype car using any combustible fuel, mainly gasoline or hydrogen, in an attempt to out-economy their rivals on a Michigan test course — which is great. The problem is the majority of these vehicles could be outperformed by a reasonably fit individual on a bicycle.

Shell states that the vehicles in the UrbanConcept category must be “roadworthy.” That equates to four wheels in permanent contact with the pavement and some vagaries about everyday drivability. But the ICE Prototype category, which Laval’s car occupies, is unburdened by practicality. There aren’t stringent guidelines on how these vehicles have to accomplish their run. Provided drivers can average 15 mph for six miles, they qualify. According to Business Insider, the winning team’s strategy involved accelerating to 20 mph and then coasting to around 9 mph before restarting the engine.

Those UrbanConcept vehicles aren’t exactly ready for the road either, though. The Mater Dei High School of Indiana cranked off an admirable 723.4 mpg with their Supermileage, but it’s still a tiny teardrop-shaped pod that would fail every single crash test thrown at it. And it’s the same for the battery-driven cars, they’re all about minimizing weight and drag but little else. However, we can’t fault the competitors for not bringing road-ready vehicles to a challenge where the objective is to increase efficiency by any means necessary.

If changes need to be made, it should be by Shell. Ideally, these vehicles would be forced to run a course that offered a more normal driving experience — perhaps with some firmer guidelines as to what qualifies as a “roadworthy” car. Starts and stops are a normal part of daily commuting, as are speeds in excess of 15 miles an hour. The standing rules don’t make the achievements of these teams any less impressive. But adding to them would serve to compare these prototype eco units to their real world counterparts and make the event a bit more exciting.

Laval’s Alérion Supermileage team will continue on to Shell Drivers’ World Championship Regional Final, which takes place in London at the end of May.

[Image: Alérion Supermileage Team]

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  • Daniel J Daniel J on May 22, 2017

    I was in a physics club about 20 years ago and I was part of an electric car project. The original competition was how many "laps" off of fixed charged batteries we could get. Our particular car was more a low slung go-cart. It weighted in at about 1200 lbs, used small motorcycle tires with disc brakes, and used a very large DC electric motor connected to a a rear axle. We got it up to 60mph and it only completed about 15 laps. The competition had these 200lb fiberglass domes over minimal framing with 3 wheels. Their max speed was about about 15 mph, however, they went for close to 100 laps.

  • Ajla From what I can see in the NHTSA data nontire part failures make up about .5% of reported crashes and aren't listed as a cause in the fatal accident reports. While we've all seen hoopties rolling around I'm guessing they don't go far or fast enough for many negative outcomes to occur from their operation.While I wouldn't want to be in that .5% I'd also want to avoid a "Bear Patrol" situation. When it comes to road safety nontire part failures are more like animal attacks while aggressive or impaired driving are heart disease and cancer.
  • Art Vandelay On the right spec truck, that is a screaming bargain for the price. And you can buy it safe knowing that as it is a Ford you'll never have your vehicle's good name sullied by seeing EBFlex and Tassos puffing each other's peters in one...a nice bonus to the horsepower!
  • Art Vandelay Too small for Tassos and EBFlex to puff each other's peters in.
  • Spookiness I can see revising requirements for newer vehicles, like 3 years, but not for older. I live in a state with safety inspections next to a state without, within a common metro-area commute "shed." Besides the fact that the non-inspection state has a lot of criminals to begin with, they're poorer, less educated, have a lot of paper-tag shady dealers, very lax law enforcement of any kind, and not much of a culture of car maintenance. It's all of their janky hoopties dead or burning on the side of the road every mile that farks up the commute for the rest of us. Having a car inspected just once a year is a minimal price of civilization, and at least is some basic defense against some of the brake-less, rusted-out heaps that show up on YouTubes "Just Rolled In."
  • Pippin Republicans Senators - "We refuse to support your nomination because you don't have a background in traffic safety! That's the priority!"Biden nominates someone with a background in traffic safetyRepublican Senators - "This new nominee is totally unacceptable! They're in favor of new regulations to improve traffic safety! We need big government out of (men's) lives!"