Against a backdrop of rising fuel prices and increasing consumer demand to improve fuel efficiency, Britain’s young creative minds are rising to the challenge to design a car to help meet the word’s fuel challenges of the future.
British teams from Aston University in Birmingham and Langley Park School for Boys, Beckenham, are taking part in this year’s European Shell Eco-marathon taking place in Lausitz, Germany, between 26-28 May. This is an international race with a twist as teams of young people from across Europe have been challenged to design and build not the fastest car, but the most fuel efficient vehicles which will come together in a race to determine who can go the furthest on the smallest amount of fuel.
Now in its 27th year – the Shell Eco-marathon continues to inspire young and innovative engineering minds, with over 200 teams, made up of more than 3,000 students from 27 countries, from across Europe taking part.
Teams can enter two categories: the Prototype category, where the design considerations are to reduce drag and maximise engine efficiency and cars often look futuristic; or the UrbanConcept category, where cars look more like the passenger vehicles we are all used to seeing on our roads. This year, 149 Prototype and 63 UrbanConcept cars are taking part.
Langley Park School for Boys will race 15.8 miles around a Prototype track, while Aston University will race 11.8 miles around the UrbanConcept track to allow experts to compare each vehicle’s fuel consumption and calculate the distance travelled on the equivalent of a single litre of fuel.
The competition is designed to inspire creative thinking and innovation amongst those passionate about finding sustainable solutions to the world’s energy challenge. Aston University have taken inspiration from thinking about the urban mega cities of the future and have incorporated a space saving ‘central pivot point’ to their vehicle design, giving the car the ability to fold in half to reduce its parking footprint. They have also taken into consideration the lightweight nature and sustainability of the materials they’re using and have chosen fast growing bamboo to build the structural frame and easily recyclable lightweight marine plywood.
Langley Park School have used only recycled materials for their vehicle, taken from old bicycles, recycled internal walls from aircraft and engines from previously used cars which entered the race.
Teams can choose from a range of traditional and alternative fuel types to power their cars. Vehicles with internal combustion engines can use petrol, diesel, Gas to Liquid, biodiesel or ethanol. Those running on electrical engines can use hydrogen, solar or – for the first time – ‘plug in’ battery technologies. As long as teams adhere to safety rules, vehicle design is limited only by students’ imagination.
David Hone, Shell climate change advisor, said:
“At a time when reducing CO2 emissions is high on the environmental agenda, the Shell Eco-marathon is a great chance for young people to explore and then demonstrate that such a goal really is possible. In recent years the competing teams have come up with novel designs, especially given the challenges of modest budgets and lack of professional experience. Most excitingly, these designs help influence and inspire the kinds of cars we will drive in the future.”
Norman Koch, Shell Eco-marathon global technical manager, said:
“As a team of technical experts who look at issues of vehicle performance as part of our day job, it is impressive to see the level of expertise and ambition exhibited by the students competing in the Shell Eco-marathon. The two British teams seem to have some very interesting takes on future mobility concepts. The Shell Eco-marathon gives students invaluable practical experience and provides an exciting platform to put their innovative ideas into reality. I hope this competition will inspire future generations of young people to consider a career in engineering.”