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Ethanol Car Beats Fuel Cells to Win European Eco-marathon

NOGARO, France, May 22, 2006 (ENS) - An ethanol powered car engineered by French high school students has achieved the best fuel efficiency at the European Shell Eco-marathon 2006, winning the race at the Nogaro auto racing circuit in southwest France. It also took the Climate Friendly prize for producing the least greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

Engineering students from France's Lycee La Joliverie celebrated victory Sunday after their ethanol powered prototype vehicle completed seven laps of the Nogaro circuit with an energy consumption equivalent to traveling 2,885 kilometers (1,792 miles) on a single liter of gasoline.

Lycee La Joliverie is a high school in St. Sebastian-sur-Loire, France, that specializes in internal combustion engines.

“The performance of the ethanol team has shown that hydrogen powered vehicles are not the only solution to the Shell Eco-marathon challenge for energy efficiency," said Vincent Tertois, technical director for the Shell Eco-marathon.

Tertois said the fact that all top eight teams had broken the 2,000 kilometers per liter (km/l) consumption barrier is an achievement that would have been “impossible” several years ago.


Lycee La Joliverie's ethanol powered car was ranked most efficient at the European Shell Eco-marathon 2006. (Photo courtesy Shell Eco-marathon)
But the overall fuel efficiency record of 3,836 kilometers traveled on a single liter of fuel set at last year’s European Shell Eco-marathon, remained unbroken as participants struggled against high winds and intermittent rain in Nogaro. The record was set by ETH Zürich with a hydrogen fuel cell car that is rated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most fuel efficient car.

The Lycee La Joliverie team’s achievement came at the end of a weekend that seemed likely to be dominated by hydrogen powered vehicles.

The hydrogen fuel cell powered Polytech Nantes-La Joliverie team from France had led the consumption rankings for much of the Eco-marathon weekend with a 2,730 km/l equivalent consumption – but eventually placed third after the hydrogen powered ESSTIN-Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy team, also of France.

Polytech Nantes-Joliverie had been locked in a battle with German team Hochschule Offenburg and ESSTIN to achieve the best ranking for a hydrogen car.

All of the top three teams were from French schools. At the close of the circuit on Sunday, Hochschule Offenburg found themselves in fourth position with a fuel consumption of 2,614 km/l. The team had switched from diesel to hydrogen for the 2006 event, and they used an innovative wheel-hub motor, which won them the Bosch technical innovation award.

"The fact that so many fuel types are represented in the top teams is a great sign of the wide range of alternative energies which could play a part in the future of transportation," Tertois said.

Run since 1985, the European Shell Eco-marathon offers participants from across Europe the opportunity to test their sustainable transportation ideas.


Some members of the winning team from Lycee La Joliverie with their cars at Nogaro (Photo courtesy Shell Eco-marathan)
The principle of the race is simple - to drive the maximum number of kilometers on a motor circuit with the highest energy yield possible. Teams are free to use any conventionally available energy source, including petrol or gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, solar, electric, hydrogen, or biofuel such as ethanol.

Serge Giacomo, director of external affairs for Shell, said the presence of all the energy types in the top 30 consumption ranking was a great sign for the future of affordable and efficient energy development.

“In the consumption ranking the first 27 teams have all broken the 1,000 km/l, it is fantastic to see the teams have achieved such a high level for this year’s European Shell Eco-marathon," Giacomo said.

“To see so many different energy types achieving these consumption levels is also a great reward for the hard work all the participants have put in throughout this year long project and it takes us to the next step in promoting and encouraging the most efficient energy use," he said.

Students from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and across Europe were in the line-up of futuristic vehicles, which give a glimpse of how these young scientists and technicians may influence the transportation of tomorrow.

To fairly judge differing energy types against each other, participating teams are required to complete seven laps of the Nogaro racing circuit within the regulation time. Total energy consumed is then calculated and expressed in terms of the equivalent kilometer/liter of gasoline, or petrol.

The team from the Institut Universitaire de Technologie of Valenciennes, France topped the diesel category.


Parade of cars entered in the European Shell Eco-marathon 2006 (Photo courtesy Shell Eco-marathon)
Danish technicians from the Technical University of Denmark did not win the race, but they have been leading the development of future hydrogen power technology.

While most hydrogen engines use around 95 percent of their fuel efficiently, the Danish engineers have developed new technology which allows 100 percent of the hydrogen to be used in the fuel cell.

The team has already applied for a patent for this new technology and believe it could become commonplace in the hydrogen engines of the future.

The Danes said it was due to their participation in the last two Shell Eco-marathons that they had been able to invent, test and perfect this fuel cell technology.

Christian Bang-Moller from the Danish team said, “We have given the rights for this innovation to the Technical University and we certainly believe this could become part of the future for hydrogen fuel cells in both transportation and static applications.”

Attracting great interest and media coverage were the French team from Decazeville, who powered their prototype on biofuel made from left over breadcrumbs from the school canteen.

The 2006 Shell Eco-Marathon UK takes place on July 12 and 13, 2006. Competitors range from students aged 11 to senior university academics and semi-professional independent teams.

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