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With Gas Prices Nearing $4 a Gallon, How Does 1,134 mpg Sound?

April 2, 2012

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students once again showcased their ability to build and race some of the nation's best fuel-efficient vehicles, placing two vehicles among the top contenders at the sixth annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas event last weekend in Houston, Texas.


Rounding Corner: Ally Nelson takes the inside line to pass a competing team during last weekend's Shell Eco-marathon Americas event on streets near Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston.  Nelson drove the 74 Classic efficient vehicle to a sixth-place finish this year.

Achieving 1,134 miles per gallon, Rose-Hulman's 74 Classic (number 75) placed sixth out of 30 gasoline-powered vehicles in the prototype division - and the fourth-best performance for an American college team.  Meanwhile, the  74 Extra Spicy vehicle (number 74) was 13th at 767 mpg.

Prototype vehicles are typically smaller in size and more futuristic-looking, with the overall design concept to reduce drag and maximize efficiency.  Vehicles in this class are one-seater, built with three or four wheels and have an opened- or closed-top driver compartment.

Shell Eco-marathon is a unique challenge for motivated students that has all the elements associated with competition; emotion, success, failure and regulations.  Students are challenged to drive farther than their peers on one gallon of fuel.  More than 1,000 students with 113 vehicles competed in this year's challenge, taking place on the streets surrounding downtown Houston's Discovery Green.  

Both of Rose-Hulman's cars encountered overheating issues with the unusual high temperatures at this year's competition, along with electrical problems.  Once on the track, drivers were forced to deal with competing against as many as 100 teams at the event. 

"It was still a good result despite the frustrations," reports faculty advisor Allen White, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.  "The team fought hard all weekend, ultimately staying up all night re-wiring both vehicles completely to help solve some of the problems."

The vehicles' drivers were Ally Nelson, a junior mechanical engineering major, and Ethan Skinner, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

Learn more about the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition.

Rose-Hulman driver Ally Nelson was interviewed during the technical inspection process on the following Shell Eco-marathon video (see her at 24 seconds into the video).