More than 1,100 students from 112 schools in the United States and four other countries converged on the U.S. energy capital this weekend to show it’s possible to design and drive vehicles that use far less fuel than cars on the road today. Of course, these space-age super high-mileage cars that will circle the streets of downtown Houston for the next two days in Shell Eco-marathon Americas are not usually built for comfort. Instead, through light weight, super aerodynamic design, and light-footed driving, the high school and college students compete for fuel efficiency.
Although the majority of teams use gasoline internal combustion engines, nearly 40 percent of the teams who registered chose to propel their vehicles with electricity or a hydrogen fuel cell. Teams also are running diesel, ethanol and “fatty acid methyl ester,” or biodiesel.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker gave a nod to energy diversity in kicking off the ceremonies, telling the students they were gathering in an appropriate place for the competition. “We are the home of the oil and gas industry worldwide, and we intend to be the home of the energy industry worldwide, moving into the future,” she said.
Students in this year’s competition hail from 24 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Guatemala. It is the seventh year of Eco-marathon Americas competition, the third year in downtown Houston. But Shell Eco-marathon began 28 years ago in France. Now, Shell holds three separate competitions — Americas, Europe, Asia.