One litre of fuel, 1246 km and a prize-winning record

(12.05.2009) Ten NTNU master's students, two volunteer drivers and an 80-kg carbon fibre automobile dubbed "Fuel Fighter" set a new record in Lausitz, Germany last week, and won first prize in the 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon.

The competition, which began Thursday, May 7, is for university and upper secondary school students to design, build and race a vehicle that can travel the farthest on one litre of gasoline. On Saturday, after ironing out several technical bugs, the NTNU students drove 22 km in 55 minutes -- after which the fuel consumption in their hydrogen fuel cell car was measured. This is then converted to an equivalent use of gasoline.

The conversion showed that the Fuel Fighter travelled the equivalent of 1246 km on a litre of gasoline. The record was set last year by De Haagse Hogeschool (Netherlands), whose car ran the equivalent of 848km on a single litre of fuel. The Dutch team took second place in this year's competition, travelling the equivalent of 804 km.

The NTNU students competed for the first time last year in the Eco-Marathon, and returned with a second place finish in the Urban Concept Fuel Cell category, which is intended for cars that have been designed with four wheels in a more conventional roadworthy format.

Most of the students are from NTNU's Product Design and Manufacturing programme, but there are also students from Chemistry and Biotechnology , Engineering Cybernetics, and Electric Power Engineering. The NTNU students thought they would be able to beat the 2008 record and travel 1000 km on one litre of fuel -- little did they realize how right they were!

This year marks the 25th annual Shell Eco-Marathon, which had its origins in a 1939 in an argument between employees of Shell Oil's research laboratory in Wood River, Illinois, as to whose car got better fuel mileage. The competition this year has drawn students from 25 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.