A pair of French student teams from schools side-by-side on the Loire River shared technology, team spirit, and sleek aerodynamic styling to capture top fuel efficiency prizes Saturday at Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2012 in Rotterdam.

Team Microjoule from the technical school La Joliviere in Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire won the

Driver Lesveques Aurélien. Photo Courtesy Shell Eco-marathon.

gasoline prototype division for the third year in a row, gliding its white gasoline-powered vehicle around the port city with fuel efficiency of 2,832.8 kilometers per liter (6,663.2 miles per gallon). And fellow Loire valley team Polytech Nantes, commandeering a black-accented vehicle with a similar rocket-like shape but powered by hydrogen, took the fuel cell prize, also for the third year running, with a result of 540.9 kilometers (335.4 miles) per kilowatt-hour. Nantes score was the equivalent of efficiency of 4,822 km/l (11,301 mpg) on gasoline.

The teams, calling their joint effort Polyjoule, drew cheers from noisy fans with air horns as their mostly silent vehicles drew into the finish line for final fuel measurements today.

Neither of the teams surpassed the fuel efficiency marks they set in previous years, but that was to be expected, since it was a new type of track for Shell Eco-marathon Europe, now in its 27th year. This was the first time the student design-, build- and drive-race was run on ordinary city streets instead of a race track. The bumpy road surface and five 90-degree turns on the 16-kilometer (10-mile) race course was bound to shave mileage. The rules require the vehicles to complete the course in fewer than 39 minutes.

Still, several teams in the competition were able to set new Shell Eco-marathon records in specific categories thanks to advances in the design and construction of their vehicles.

Racing on its own home country’s soil, the MAC Eco Team from ROC Ter AA in Helmond, The Netherlands, achieved 416.3 km/l (979 mpg) in a vehicle powered by GTL—a cleaner burning diesel liquid fuel converted from natural gas. The result smashed the previous Eco-marathon record for GTL of 138 km/l (325 mpg).

In the “urban concept” car category, for vehicles that are designed to be street-legal, Team Electricar Solution from Lycee des Metiers Charles Privat in Arles, France achieved a new record with 262.6 km (163 miles) per kilowatthour in the battery electric fuel class (surpassing the previous record by 29.6 km/kWh). DTU Roadrunners from the Technical University of Denmark beat its own record in alternative gasoline category with its ethanol-powered vehicle hitting 611.1 km/l (1,427 mpg.)

Ecoteam Zollernalb of Germany. Photo courtesy of Shell Eco-marathon

The electric car that hit the highest efficiency mark in the race was a solar car designed by a team from Philipp-Matthäus-Hahn-Schule technical school in Nürtingen, Germany. The gold vehicle, with a large flat solar panel covering its entire roof, was perhaps not as aerodynamic as the gasoline vehicles but it completed the track with a result of 769.7 km (477.2 miles) per kilowatt-hour. Based on gasoline equivalency (1 gallon delivers the same energy as 33.7 kilowatthours of electric power), Philipp-Matthäus’ Ecoteam Zollernalb achieved fuel economy of 6,861.7 km/l (16,082 mpg.)

Below, Michael Fardeau, teacher and team manager for the Microjoule team from La Joliviere, explains the secret of his team’s success.

Driver Lesveques Aurélien of the Microjoule team of La Joliviere school in France after one of his team’s runs.