University students build 3,421 mpg car



It’ll cost you about $400-$500 to fly from Miami to Seattle, but would you think about driving if you could make the trip for less than $2.50 --- the price of a gallon of gas?

You could, theoretically at least, if you used the winning car from the 2015 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition, where high schools and universities face off in high efficiency vehicles of their own design.

The University of Toronto Supermileage Design Team fielded a three-wheel carbon fiber streamliner that weighs just 80 pounds and is powered by a custom built 45cc single-cylinder gasoline engine. The motor runs at a high 15:1 compression ratio and cranks out a not-quite-Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat 1.5 lb-ft of torque that it sends to a single rear wheel via chain drive. It took home the top prize by achieving an estimated 3,421 mpg over the short street course laid out in downtown Detroit.

The team improved dramatically over last year’s second place 2712 mpg performance by dropping 10 pounds from the vehicle, updating the engine tune and improving their hypermiling driving technique, but still came up short of the 3,587 mpg record set by Laval University of Quebec in 2013. That could change next year.

Team member Prashant Murali says the car is fitted with a special clutch system that should be good for another 20 to 30 percent increase in efficiency, but it hasn’t been fully tested and they didn’t want to chance using it on their final run of the competition, which turned out to be the winner, but plan to employ it next time around.

Unfortunately, with or without it, the car has a top speed of just over 20 mph, so that cross-country road trip would take over a week, not counting all of the stops you’d need to fill up its tiny 30 ml gas tank. But, hey, that’s budget travel for you.

Gary Gastelu is's Automotive Editor.