UCL Shell Eco-marathon team driver straps in

Bright young minds are innovating new kinds of ultra-energy-efficient vehicle designs at the Shell Eco-marathon. From foot-steered lightweight cars from the UK, to 3D-printed automobile entries from Asia, a new generation of transportation is taking to the road.

This article was originally published by Mashable.

Around the globe, throughout 2015, student teams took to the blacktop in Europe, Asia, and the Americas — designing, building and driving cutting edge automobiles that stand to serve as blueprints for new start-up transportation technology in the near future.

In its most recent chapter, the Shell Eco-marathon story included events in Manila, in Detroit and Rotterdam. And while the vehicles these competitors constructed certainly held the spotlight, highlights from Shell Eco-marathon Europe in 2015 also showcased the very human element at work.

When it comes to innovating the next steps for transportation on our planet, the competition is fierce — but it is also friendly.

Out of the fire: Denmark makes emotional comeback at Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2015

Flames broke out in the paddock of Denmark's DTU Roadrunners team, this year, almost entirely destroying the team's car.

One Roadrunners member described the scene: "The whole car, all the work and effort was gone in flames...Everybody was shocked by the incident and frustrated, thinking, 'How could this happen?' But we tried to keep our focus."

Keep their focus they did. Working through the day and night, DTU Roadrunners found themselves facing the prospect of being unable to compete, but its members also found themselves in friendly company. Other teams — especially France's team, TIM — kicked in spare parts and assistance. Twenty-six hours later the Roadrunners' rebuilt car was on the track. It went on to set a new world record for UrbanConcept ethanol car efficiency — 665 kilometers per liter.

Bright ideas plus teamwork: France illustrates the spirit of Shell Eco-marathon

The French Shell Eco-marathon Europe team, TIM , has been designing and competing in the event since 1995. As they pitched in to help DTU Roadrunners rebuild Denmark's fire-ravaged car, they consequently found their time away from testing their own vehicle come with a kind of price: "Due to the lack of time, we didn't really do much test driving with the vehicle," said one TIM team member.

And so, eight laps in, their car threw a rear axle beam. And then the brakes began to leak. Next, the team's engine failed to start.

Friendly competition is a cycle, and TIM saw that cycle at work this year. Returning the favor that TIM had paid its members just prior, DTU Roadrunner members jumped in to help TIM with its own ailing vehicle — even offering the team Denmark's test bench and set of fresh, working brakes. Sadly, TIM's car never performed to expectations. That doesn't diminish, however, their ideas about what makes Shell Eco-marathon a success.

"Even though we are competitors and we hope to win first place, great sportsmanship is still a very important value," a team member said. "For a team to have great sportsmanship, great team spirit is the key … helping other teams during the Shell Eco-marathon seems very natural to us."

UK's Team Hydrone takes their hands off the wheel: Foot-first steering at Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2015

Not every team was struck with high drama. Some were simply working on new ideas and learning as they went.

This year, Team Hydrone from University College London took lightweight car concepts one step further by replacing the traditional steering wheel and column with a foot-controlled floor steering mechanism. The change eliminated some six kilograms of vehicle weight and suggested new ways for humans to interact with driving machines.

"Steering with the feet instead of hands feels a little bit like brushing your teeth with the wrong hand," said one Team Hydrone member, in an interview. "On the plus-side, however, the driver is gifted increased visibility since her hands don't have to be in front of her face holding a steering device of some sort. This means we can optimize the shape of the car and bring its total frontal area down, minimizing air resistance in the process and resulting in additional fuel efficiency gains."

Toward 2016: Shell Eco-marathon Europe and beyond

It is no wonder that cooperation and comradeship grow up around the Shell Eco-marathon. As France and Denmark discovered new friendships, longstanding teams such as Remmi-Team (Finland) and Team CALLO (France) have been designing and putting cars on Shell Eco-marathon tracks for 30 years.

And while Team Microjoule-La Joliverie , from France, was the ultimate champion of this year’s European event with a new compressed-natural-gas engine, opportunities to excel continue in the coming months. The Shell Eco-marathon returns to Manila and Detroit in 2016, and makes its first stop in London, next June.

In each new chapter of the Shell Eco-marathon story, humans and technology are writing the tale of transportation’s future. They are demonstrating how their ideas can enable human progress, and they are doing so together, one kilometer at a time.

View the original article on the Mashable website

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