Nicole Miranda, a first-year doctoral student at the University of Oxford, practices her vehicle exit technique and timing at Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2012 in Rotterdam. She is assisted by fellow student and driver, Lucy Mahoney. (Often female students serve as drivers in the fuel efficiency competition because they weigh less than the men on the team.)

This is the first year of competition for the United Kingdom’s storied school, and the team has had to improvise, says manager Justin Bishop. They used the shell of a vehicle that already had been built by another student team in 2006, modifying it and including the needed safety equipment. But the predetermined shape of the car meant they couldn’t bury or sink the wires of their battery electric vehicle, but had to feed them around the narrow driver’s cabin, Bishop explained.

The team’s car is named “PEGGIE,” an anagram (of sorts) for students’ program at Oxford, the Electric and Power Group (EPG). The students are deeply engaged in energy issues, and Bishop himself is a James Martin research fellow working on a project to determine the future make-up of the light-duty vehicle fleet.