You read that right: two-thousand miles per gallon … and (in case you missed the reference), these 2000 mpg vehicles were built by a bunch of school-aged tweenie-boppers. That’s huge – but let’s step back from that, though, and take a few moments to enjoy the schadenfreude.
A few short months ago (with the septuagenarians at the big three crying their eyes out over a 42 mpg CAFE standard) you could almost be forgiven for believing that there really are some insurmountable physics holding back fuel economy progress. I say “almost” of course, because even a 42 mpg standard (which GM and BMW seem to think are “ridiculous”) seems – if anything – to be a little low. That’s especially true in the face of current efficiency champions like VW’s 60+ mpg diesels and pure EVs like Nissan’s Leaf (whose range-concerns are quickly becoming a thing of the past), and doesn’t even take into account a hoard of new material and drivetrain technologies coming out of universities like MIT and U Minn (not to mention Volvo, which is on a bit of a green-tech-roll).
In the face of prototypes like the ones these kids have built, such concerns about 40 mpg cars really seem more “generational” than “technical” – back to the real story, then: the kids!
The kids were students (and student teams) from regional schools, and took part in the annual Mileage Marathon Challenge, with each team vying to set new mpg records on a closed course. The vehicles were allowed to coast, however, but had to maintain a minimum speed of 15 mph to stay in contention. Several area design and engineering firms provided the kids with technical support, but the winner of the 20-team competition (below) was built by 14-year-old Sam Chapman-Hill, who achieved 1,980 mpg in a 100-lb fiberglass “car”.
Congrats to Sam, then – now get yourself over to the F1 paddock, my son. Williams could use a hand!