Purdue University's sleek black solar car absorbs the power of the Houston sun as it courses to victory at Shell* Eco-marathon Americas 2012.
The "Celeritas" was one of a host of student-designed vehicles from around the world to be honored in this year's edition of the super fuel efficiency race. For the past 27 years, high school and college students have joined in the Shell competition to create, build, and drive the most efficient vehicle possible. The students use whatever fuels or materials they choose, while adhering to rules on safety and vehicle weight.
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Nearly 400 student teams competed this year in the three separate races—Americas, Europe, and Asia—staged this spring and summer.
Purdue's Celeritas is named for the Latin word for speed, the "c" that stands for the speed of light in Einstein's equation, E = mc2. It wasn't speed but efficiency that garnered the student team from West Lafayette, Indiana, the $2,000 first place prize in the solar-powered urban concept car category in the Americas race in Houston in April. The car glided around the city's Discovery Green at 69 miles (111 kilometers) per kilowatt-hour, the energy equivalent of 2,325 miles per gallon (989 kilometers per liter) fuel economy on gasoline. As an "urban concept" vehicle, the Celeritas is a street-legal car, with doors, upright seating, even safety mirrors. Purdue also took home an additional $1,000 award for outstanding communications efforts.
(Related Blog Post: "Purdue: Nearly Street Legal, Powered by Sun")
The gasoline equivalency figures are calculated according to a formula adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities, based on one U.S. gallon of gasoline delivering the same amount of energy (on a BTU basis) as 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
*Shell is sponsor of The Great Energy Challenge, a series exploring energy issues. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.