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Valencia: Supercar Material for Super-Efficiency

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Photo courtesy of Team UPV Eco-marathon

Students from Spain’s La Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (UPV) do some final testing on “Urban Spirit,” the car they hope will help test new possibilities for fuel efficiency in Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2012. The Valencia team is one of 154 teams from some 20 countries gathered in Rotterdam this week for the student design, build, and drive competition.

The goal isn’t to be the fastest car, but to be the most efficient; still, the Urban Spirit UPV team has been inspired by the world of sports car driving. The students have integrated the same aluminum honeycomb glass fiber into their car as is used in the GTA Spano, the Spanish supercar built in their own city of Valencia by GTA Motor. “It’s easy to design with and makes a strong chassis,” says fifth-year student Javier Gonzalez, “Of course, it’s very expensive.”

The team is hoping the new ultra-lightweight material helps lift it beyond its performance last year of 146 kilometers per liter (343 miles per gallon). But this year’s track will be more difficult, on the city streets of Rotterdam with five 90-degree turns. Previously, Eco-marathon Europe was held on a circular race track, last year, in Lausitz, Germany.

Because every bump and turn in the road eats up more fuel, it will be more challenging to achieve high gas mileage on city streets. But the race organizers wanted to aim for conditions closer to what ordinary motorists face. And the Valencia team is entered in the category of the competition that is also meant to mimic real-world conditions, the “urban concept” vehicle class; the students in this category need to build vehicles that are street legal. (They even had to include windshield wipers this year for the first time.)