Students race hydrogen eco car in Europe

Shell Eco-marathon
Pictured: Finishing touches being made to the Aston eco car

16 May 2014

A new city car capable of travelling over 1,000 miles on just one litre of fuel was raced by Aston University students. 

The ultra-efficient car was built and designed by mechanical engineering and product design students. The team of 11 are battled against 3,000 students from across Europe in the Shell Eco-Marathon, which runs from 15 – 18 May. 

The Aston team built the futuristic concept car from fully sustainable bio-composite materials and included features such as plywood suspension and wheels. Powered by a compact hydrogen fuel cell the size of a cereal packet, the car produces no carbon emissions, only electricity and water. 

To win the competition, they had to navigate their car around the Ahoy street circuit, in the middle of Rotterdam, over ten intense laps before event organisers calculate the vehicle’s fuel efficiency and the distance it could have hypothetically travelled. 

Vehicles in past races have achieved hypothetical distances of more than 1,500 miles on just one KWh or one litre of fuel, the equivalent of driving from Paris to Moscow. A typical petrol car with an engine up to 1.4l would travel just over 11 miles per litre of fuel on average. 

The judges were also looking for innovation and design vision. They assessed each car based on how economical and environmentally sound it is while ensuring the comfort and safety of the driver. 

I am proud of what we have achieved. Hopefully our efforts will pay off on the race track

Design lecturer Dr Christian Mclening, who is leading the team from Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS), said: “The Shell Eco-marathon is a great opportunity for students to put what they learn into practice, with very impressive results. Every member of our team has worked extremely hard to design and manufacture our car over the last eight months and I am proud of what we have achieved. 

“The experience was really great fun. It has provided invaluable experience and is looked upon favourably by the design and motor industry. Indeed, several members of the team have already been offered jobs for when they graduate at renowned firms, with student team manager, MEng student Ross Ferreira, having already secured a design job at Dyson.” 

Norman Koch, Technical Director of Shell Eco-marathon, added: “The Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students to design, build and drive the world’s most energy-efficient car. We deliberately put this challenge to students because it is tomorrow’s engineers who will be responsible for coming up with solutions to our growing energy challenge. 

“We need to find smarter mobility solutions for the future, and engaging students with this challenge as early as possible is critical.” 

Last year, Aston EAS students celebrated their highest ever finish in the competition, coming 9th overall in the hydrogen powered concept car category. In 2012, they won the Shell Eco-Design Award for their visionary flat pack self-assemble car, which was said to have left a ‘lasting impression’ on judges.

 The Eco-marathon dates back to 1939, when Shell employees in the USA made a wager over who could travel furthest on the same amount of fuel. 


For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or