URBANA, Ill. — Think a car averaging 40 miles per gallon is fuel efficient? Think again.
A team of University of Illinois students has designed a two-seat car that could reach 100 miles per gallon, which they plan to present at a competition sponsored by the oil giant Shell. The event in Houston starts Thursday.
The group of students, whose majors include mechanical, industrial and chemical engineering, among others, developed the highly fuel-efficient car with a $56,000 budget, according to The (Champaign-Urbana) News-Gazette. The car uses a hydrogen fuel cell, and its carbon-fiber chassis weighs less than 70 pounds.
The category the students signed up to compete in calls for cars that include components that are standard for those currently on roads, such as steering wheels. Organizers also ask competitors to consider various driving conditions, including rain and traffic.
When designing and building the vehicle, the team "went for real-world feasibility," said Sanat Bhole, a senior in mechanical engineering.
The vehicle will have to complete 10 laps — or six miles— at a minimum average speed of 15 miles per hour around in the streets of downtown Houston as part of the competition.
The team is vying for a $2,000 prize and a trophy.
This is the second year a University of Illinois team is competing in the hydrogen fuel-cell urban concept category. Last year's team came in first by registering a 66 miles per gallon with a single-passenger car.
The students hope to improve their mileage thanks to a much lighter and more aerodynamic chassis.
"It's super-lightweight. You could lift one with your whole finger — if the battery was not in in," Bhole told the newspaper.
The oil company's competition in Houston will gather more than 100 teams of high school and college students from North and South America. The program's goal is to develop and test the most energy-efficient vehicles. A car reached 2,188 miles per gallon at last year's competition. The company has hosted similar programs in Europe and Asia.
"By designing and building fuel-efficient vehicles ... these student innovators demonstrate that we can work together now to find more solutions to the energy challenge and make a difference for tomorrow," Ignacio Gonzalez, project manager with Shell- Eco-marathon Americas said in an email.