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Hydrogen Car Wins Design Honors at Eco-marathon

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Taiwan's Solomon Fuel Cell Vehicle Team walked away with the Design Award for the originality, aesthetics, exterior and interior finishing and touch-screen technology applied in their vehicle. (Photography courtesy Shell)

Named after the legendary king, the Solomon Fuel Cell Vehicle from Taiwan won the Design Award at Shell* Eco-marathon Asia over the weekend and topped the race in the Urban Concept – Hydrogen category with a fuel efficiency record of 63 kilometers (39.1 miles) per kilowatt-hour.

The vehicle featured a Star Wars-inspired “Jedi Knight” design, touch screen technology and a detachable steering wheel, among others.

“We made the steering wheel detachable so that in the event of an accident, the driver can remove it and will have more space to escape from the vehicle,” said team manager Lim Pei Yong, 22, from National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences.

Lim, one of the few female participants in the race and a master’s student in mold and die engineering, said her team brought down the weight of the car from 118 kilograms (260 pounds) in 2011 to 108 kilograms (238 pounds) by using carbon fiber and honeycomb.

But the materials didn’t come cheap: The only team from Taiwan spent $30,000 to construct their car.

Team adviser Dr James Chun-Hsien Kuo said the team had also changed the design of the car to make it more aerodynamic and reduced the fuel leakage from between 70 to 80 parts per million (ppm) to between 10 to 15 ppm.

“The leakage is almost negligible,” said Kuo.

Apart from the Design Award, six other off-track awards on safety, technical innovation and more were presented to teams from the Philippines, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Each team received $1,000 for the prize.

* Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.