Teams of young UK scientists and engineers are preparing to measure up against other students from all over Europe in a test to see who can drive furthest on the smallest amount of energy – and they’ll be doing it in cars that they have designed and built themselves.

Held in Rotterdam between 15th and 19th May, Shell Eco-marathon Europe will see UK teams from University of Oxford, University of Central Lancashire, University of Staffordshire, Aston University and AJ Woods Engineering compete against 3,000 students from 24 countries. Their aim is to test drive their energy efficient car, to demonstrate that it is capable of travelling hundreds of miles on the equivalent of one kWh or a single litre of fuel.

As well as battling to win one of 14 cash prizes on offer at the event, the teams will also take on the achievements of the returning French team Microjoule-La Joliverie who last year travelled an incredible 1,770 miles on just one litre of fuel; the equivalent of driving from Moscow to Paris.

Shell UK Chairman, Ed Daniels, said: “As an engineer myself, it’s fantastic to see some of the UK’s brightest young minds working hard to come up with exciting fuel efficient vehicles, and leading the way when it comes to innovation in Europe. I wish all the teams luck and, after Aston University’s win of the Eco Design Award last year, I hope we see continued UK success and participation in the future.”

Shell Eco-marathon 2013 takes place in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on a city street circuit that will test not only the students’ engineering capabilities but their fuel efficient driving skills too. The course includes no less than five 90 degree turns, meaning that drivers will have to be easier than ever on the brake and accelerator in order to squeeze out every last mile.

To help ensure that the challenge remains as fair as possible, the teams are also split into two categories: the Prototype Class in which participants use futuristic designs to deliver maximum mileage; and the Urban Concept Class, which features more practical, road-like cars. Each team can then choose whether their vehicle runs on a conventional fuel like petrol, diesel or natural gas, or an alternative energy source such as biofuels, hydrogen, solar power or electricity.

Commenting on the challenge of Shell Eco-marathon, Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, said: “Shell Eco-marathon tests the minds of our future engineers and engages them in a subject that is important to us all. I am consistently impressed by the originality and innovation shown by young engineers in the UK and I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas the students come up with as they tackle this difficult challenge. I hope initiatives like Shell Eco-marathon will inspire others to pursue careers in engineering.”

In addition to competing in the mileage challenge, this year’s students have been asked to don their thinking caps as well as their crash helmets by taking part in a new off track competition called the Shell Student Energy Challenge. Here, their task is to develop an infographic representing their own ideas for meeting the world’s future energy challenge, such as how they believe cities can cut CO2 emissions or what they feel can be done to mitigate growing pressure on the planet’s food, water and energy resources.

Ed Daniels added: “The Shell Student Energy Challenge gives the students a chance to share their views on how the world’s future demand for energy can be met responsibly and sustainably. In the past five years we’ve invested more than £18 million in R&D with UK universities and I am excited about what the students will have to say”.

The event in Rotterdam is one of three Shell Eco-marathons held every year, with the others taking place on an urban street course in Houston, USA and at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This year’s competition in Houston was staged in April and saw a new Americas record of 3,587 miles per gallon set by Canada’s Laval University. Shell Eco-marathon Asia will take place in Kuala Lumpur between 4th and 7th July.

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