US: Shell Eco-Marathon pays Detroit a visit image

The Motor City will have a decidedly futuristic look next weekend, with over 140 experimental high-efficiency prototypes racing each other for glory and world recognition in the Shell Eco-Marathon.

This is the first year the event hits downtown Detroit and will also include a conference all at Cobo Center where numerous experts and insiders are expected to converge to speak about the future of urban mobility and energy. The marathon itself is a world affair – at least 1,000 university and high school students that come as far as Brazil or Chile will drive the vehicles they designed, developed and produced. The participants will be housed by Shell Oil in a tent city built directly inside Cobo Center, allowing them to further work on their vehicles throughout the weekend.

The prototype vehicles will feature a wide range of powertrains, with propulsion spanning from gasoline and ethanol to batteries and fuel cells. During April 10-12 they will challenge each other on a circuit from Cobo to Jefferson Avenue, Woodward, Michigan Avenue, Washington Boulevard and back to Cobo. “The energy system is going to transform over the next 30, 40 or 50 years,” comments Shell vice president Neil Golightly.

In already concluded Eco-Marathons, the racers had a fuel economy of up to 3,587 miles per gallon. To make matters more akin to real-world usage, all participant cars need to have an average speed of more than 15 miles an hour and undergo a rigorous safety and technical inspection. In addition, besides the students and advisors, the conference is expected to bring academics, business people and scientists.