Vehicle Built by High School Achieves 2,843.4 Miles per Gallon
The team from Mater Dei High School of Evansville, Indiana, has won the Shell Eco-marathon Americas with a fuel economy of 2,843.4 miles per gallon (mpg). The Shell Eco-marathon Americas challenges student teams from across the Americas to design and build the most fuel-efficient vehicle. Now in its second year, the event drew 32 teams from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, including four high-school teams and 23 university teams, including such prestigious schools as California Polytechnic Institute.
And even though some teams took a high-tech approach with hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, the Mater Dei achieved the top fuel efficiency using a small internal combustion engine. Mater Dei's achievement is particularly notable given the fact that the school does not offer a shop class, so all the work on the car is done outside of school. See the Shell press release and Eco-marathon Americas Web site, as well as the Mater Dei Supermileage Team Web site.
While the Shell Eco-marathon is relatively new to the Americas, the Shell Eco-marathon Europe has been held annually since 1985. The event has become so popular that Shell has had to limit entries to 200 teams for this year's event, forcing its selection committee to winnow down a list of more than 300 applicants.
The European event also holds the world record for fuel economy, as a hydrogen-fueled vehicle achieved the equivalent of 12,665 mpg back in 2005. This year's event runs from May 22-24 at the Nogaro Motor Circuit in France and features teams from 25 countries. See the Shell Eco-marathon Europe Web site and the article from this newsletter on the record-setting fuel economy.
Boeing Flies First Fuel-Cell-Powered Manned Aircraft
Boeing made aviation history in February and March by achieving the first manned flight of a fuel-cell-powered aircraft. The two-seat motorized glider combines a fuel cell with a lithium-ion battery to power a motor, which turns the propeller.
During the flights, the pilot of the experimental airplane climbed to 3,300 feet above sea level using a combination of battery power and power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. After reaching the cruise altitude and disconnecting the batteries, the pilot flew straight and level at a cruising speed of 62 miles per hour for about 20 minutes, using power generated solely by the fuel cells.
UQM Technologies, Inc. provided the aircraft's motor and announced the Boeing achievement. According to UQM, Boeing does not envision that fuel cells will ever provide primary power for large passenger airplanes, but the company will continue to investigate their potential, as well as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy sources that improve environmental performance. See the UQM press release and Boeing's announcement of its preparations for the flight last year.
Boeing is also teaming up with GE Aviation and Continental Airlines to demonstrate the use of biofuels in commercial aircraft. Early next year, one of Continental's commercial aircraft, a Boeing Next-Generation 737, will be fueled with a blend of biofuel and jet fuel and flown on a demonstration flight. To prepare for that flight, the companies will first perform laboratory and ground-based jet engine performance testing to ensure compliance with stringent aviation fuel performance and safety requirements.
In the months leading up to the flight, Continental, Boeing, and GE will work together and with an undisclosed fuel provider to identify sustainable fuel sources that can be produced in sufficient quantities to meet the needs for both the pre-flight testing and the demonstration flight. Virgin Atlantic flew a biofuel demonstration flight of a Boeing 747-400 in February. See the press releases from GE Aviation and Virgin Atlantic.