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An Oil Company Spends Big To Teach Students To Use Less

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The Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 is over, the winners declared. Thousands of excited students came to Houston last weekend with 140 cars and the winning team managed to get upwards of 3,580 miles per gallon. Now that the cars have been packed up and shipped back to schools throughout the hemisphere, from Alaska to Brazil, we can look back and discuss some of the bigger issues that the three frenzied, fuel-efficient competition days – and the months of hard work leading up to the event – raise.

Before leaving Houston, we got to sit down with representatives from Shell, which spends an undisclosed amount of money to put on these Eco-marathons around the world. It’s a huge undertaking, and one that has lots of positive angles and some particularly thorny ones. But first, a short history.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon started as a bet between two Shell engineers. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 mpg.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon was started as a bet between two Shell engineers to see who could go further on a gallon of fuel. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 miles per gallon in a 1933 Plymouth. They had so much fun they did it again and, by 1949, the winner was getting 150.53 mpg. The numbers kept going up from there. 1968: 244.62 mpg. 1973: 392.02 mpg. And so on. The event was known as the Shell Mileage Marathon, but in 1985, a name change signified the start of the event in its current form. That year, students from 20 European countries in 25 teams competed in the first Eco-marathon in France, and the winners managed to get 1599.45 mpg. The 1997 event was canceled because of heavy rain and in 2006 the first solar cars ran the race. In 2007, the event was held in the US for the first time, in Fontana, CA, and Asia joined the party in 2010. Today, across the three events, over 400 teams participate each year. Next year, a fourth location will draw teams from the Middle East and Africa. The current record is 8,914 mpg, set by a French team in 2003.

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Shell Eco-marathon originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 12 Apr 2013 14:54:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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