This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 06, 2005

Hydrogen-Fueled Vehicle Achieves 12,665 MPG on Test Track

Photo of a bullet-shaped vehicle, its four wheels encased in leg-like housings that extend from the vehicle, as it races past a bystander on a paved track.

The PAC-Car II stands only knee-high as it races around the test track in Ladoux, France.
Credit: ETH Zurich

Students from the Federal Polytechnical School of Zurich set a new world record for fuel efficiency in late June: 12,665 mpg (5,385 kilometers per liter). The team set the new world record in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle on a track in France as part of the Shell Eco-marathon. Called the PAC-Car II, the diminutive vehicle weighs only 66 pounds and carries one driver in a prone position. To qualify for the record, the car had to travel just under 13 miles on a test track while maintaining an average speed of at least 18.6 miles per hour (30 kilometers per hour), a feat that the Swiss team achieved while using only 1.02 grams of hydrogen. The record 12,665 mpg is based on converting that hydrogen to its equivalent in 95-octane gasoline. As pointed out by the Swiss team, with that fuel efficiency a car would need only 2 gallons of gasoline to travel around the globe. See the press release from the Federal Polytechnical School of Zurich, as well as the school's PAC-Car II Web site.

According to Shell, the first Shell Eco-marathon was held in France in 1985, setting a record of 1,600 mpg. The fuel economy record rapidly improved, and in 2003, a French team achieved 10,705 mpg, a record that stood until June. But the Swiss team's new record could be under challenge already, as another round of the Shell Eco-marathon begins at Britain's Rockingham Motor Speedway on July 6th. See the Shell Eco-marathon Web site.

Of course, there is one type of vehicle that can travel an indefinite distance without using any fuel at all: a solar car. Across North America, students began loading their solar cars onto trailers and hitting the road in early July, as solar car teams from 28 colleges and universities headed for Austin, Texas. July 10th is the start of the final qualifying event for the North American Solar Challenge, a 2,500-mile solar race that will run from Austin due north into Canada, then will head west to Calgary, Alberta. The staged race starts in Austin on July 17th and ends in Calgary on July 27th. See the 2005 North American Solar Challenge Web site.