Shell Eco-Marathon cars racing against one another.

35 Years of Powering Progress Towards Cleaner Energy Solutions

The Shell Eco-marathon is a global academic program focused on energy optimization, collaboration, and innovation.

By Shell Polymers on Mar 26, 2021

Shell’s annual Eco-marathon is one of the world’s most innovative student engineering competitions. For the past 35 years, the program has brought Shell’s mission of innovating clean energy solutions to life. This program brings together STEM students from across the globe to design, build, and operate energy-efficient vehicles. The collaboration and competition has all been in the name of collaboration and innovation, as students’ bright ideas help shape a lower carbon future for all.

Rich History of Clean Transportation Innovation

The idea for the Shell Eco-marathon started 80 years ago with a simple question asked by two Shell employees: how far can someone travel on one gallon of fuel? Year after year, Shell employees spent their free time working on this thought. The ingenuity and competitive nature within us all turned that question into a challenge, and that challenge was formalized into an annual event. In 1985, the first Shell Eco-marathon was held.

Back then, the event consisted of 25 teams from four countries and was held in France. It quickly grew into an international event, with Shell Eco-marathon Americas being held in 2007 in Fontana, California and the first Shell Eco-marathon being held in Asia in 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In the early days, vehicles were made of wood and fiberglass and transmission parts were made of steel. Technology evolved alongside the Shell Eco-marathon and soon transmission parts were being made of aluminum, carbon, and even polymer via 3D printing technology.

The first Shell Eco-Marathon concluded with Team Henry from Switzerland coming in first place with a record of 422.5 miles driven on a single gallon of gasoline. Thirty years later, the world record stands at 8,870 miles per gallon. That’s the equivalent of driving from London, England to Shanghai, China on a single gallon of gasoline.

An Ever-Evolving Competition

Today, teams can choose to design and build either urban concept vehicles that have familiar road car features and four wheels or prototypes that are ultra-efficient, lightweight, three-wheel cars. Once that decision is made, teams choose the energy category of their car which includes internal combustion, battery electric, or hydrogen fuel cell. Teams then design and build their vehicles and go through a rigorous technical inspection to make sure they meet the requirements before competitions begin.

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Shell Eco-Marathon will look a bit different than before. This year’s event will adopt a hybrid model of virtual elements and, where possible, on-track elements. This will help provide flexibility and safety for our participants while still providing a robust competition for all involved.

Be sure to check the Eco-marathon site for a full breakdown of the virtual and on-track events. 1

Competition Breeds STEM Interest

One of the main goals of the Shell Eco-marathon is to get students from all over the world involved in STEM projects. As one of the world’s leading student engineering competitions for energy efficiencies, there is no better place for students to design, build, and test-drive the world’s most fuel-efficient vehicles. Following the competition, numerous team members have expressed interest in furthering their knowledge in the field.

“The Shell Eco-marathon is where we challenge bright young minds to crack the future of mobility,”

Dean Aragon, CEO Shell Brands International and VP Brand.

These students don’t just work to win first place. Their work is crucial to building a lower carbon world as well. From ultra-efficient gasoline engines to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the Shell Eco-marathon gives people a glimpse as to what the future of transportation will look like. The ultimate goal? That these incredible innovations turn into commercial realities that help bring the world closer to a lower carbon future.

Impact of Clean Energy Solutions on the Environment

As populations grow so does the need for more and cleaner energy. Shell’s ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner is only one piece of the puzzle. In February, Shell announced its “Powering Progress” initiative that is accelerating the company’s move to net-zero emissions. Shell is committed to working with customers and across sectors to reduce emissions while reducing waste and making positive contributions to biodiversity.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is a real world example of that drive towards lower emissions. This event plays a large role in giving hands-on experience to the designers, builders, and inventors of tomorrow. Students from high schools and universities around the world are given opportunities to put STEM knowledge to use in the search for ultra-energy efficiency, something that, if properly commercialized, could change how humans consume energy.

Shell isn’t alone in this pursuit. We partner with companies like SOLIDWORKS, Altair, and HP to provide students with the latest innovations in 3D design, simulation, cloud computing, and infrastructure. This introduces students to some of the greatest minds in the world and they’re all focused on the same mission of fuel efficiency and clean energy solutions.

The use of plastic parts in the automotive industry has also been a key component to creating more energy efficient vehicles. According to the American Chemical Council, “Plastics are being used in incredibly innovative ways to help make cars safer and more fuel-efficient. They’re at the heart of solutions that make vehicles more lightweight, help increase fuel efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions. This helps provide unparalleled safety benefits like seatbelts and airbags and plastics help to enable beautiful, sleek contouring and design.”2

As more bright young minds enter the workforce and innovate, the automotive industry will continue to evolve as new perspectives to vehicle design help it better align with environmental efforts. In order to grow those young minds, Shell offers events like the Eco-Marathon and Shell Polymers is also doing its part by encouraging STEM education in Beaver County, PA.

Learn more about how Shell Polymers is supporting STEM education programs in Beaver County

A Push for STEM Education

As the Shell Eco-marathon continues to challenge young minds across the globe, one thing is obvious and that’s the importance of encouraging STEM fields. Not only is STEM education a crucial stepping stone for students on the path toward a lucrative career, but it’s also the key to innovating a better world for the generations to come. This push for more STEM education is something that Shell strongly believes in and it’s why we support and encourage STEM programs in our own backyard.

With its presence in Beaver County, Shell Polymers is encouraging STEM fields by not only financially supporting STEM programs at local colleges but also by mobilizing employees to share their knowledge of the industry and providing a place to put those skills to use in the community. Shell is proud to provide students with hands-on experience and the ability to collaborate with great minds as we all search for solutions that drive us to a more sustainable future.

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1 https://www.makethefuture.shell/en-gb/shell-eco-marathon/2021-programme

2 https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Automotive/