The weather gods looked kindly on Rotterdam this past week and decided not to interfere with 3,000 students racing for fuel efficiency records in 2014’s Shell* Eco-marathon Europe. Bathed in sunlight, the competitors drove their self-built cars to record-breaking efficiency.

As expected, students of Lycee Saint-Joseph la Joliverie from France prolonged their title in the prototype class by driving 10 laps on the street circuit on just a couple of drops of fuel. Calculations showed they would be able to continue driving for 3,314.9 kilometers on a single liter of gasoline (7,797 miles per gallon): a new circuit record.

Students of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam also set a circuit record with a score of 428.5 kilometers (266 miles) per kilowatt hour with their vehicle H2A. If they could drive around the world at the equator, that road trip would cost them no more than 22 euros ($27) in electricity bills.

The H2A prototype, running on hydrogen, competes at Eco-marathon. (Photograph courtesy Shell)

The H2A prototype, running on hydrogen, competes at Eco-marathon. (Photograph courtesy Shell)

Shell Eco-marathon Europe is all about inspiration, collaboration and fun in the sun, said event manager Klaas Engelsma, looking back at the four-day technology festival, which attracted over 40,000 visitors, including 11,000 school children.

“They got inspired by the student teams solving engineering problems in the paddock under immense time pressure, still coming up with creative solutions. These students are the engineers of our future. They change the way we think about mobility and I’m sure the future will be better because of it,” he said.

Apart from the ten winners in two categories divided into five fuel types per category, a number of teams were awarded “off-track awards” for best car design, most groundbreaking innovation, safety efforts, and best overall communication strategy.

The off-track award for “perseverance in the face of adversity” was given to Team SCB-Madi from the Madi University in Russia. After driving more than 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) to participate in the efficiency contest, the team encountered many technical problems, all of which they fixed with MacGyver-like creativity, using whatever parts they could get their hands on.

This is what it’s all about: self-confidence and perseverence, Volkan Cetin, student of the Sakarya University in Turkey, told 60 Dutch children with a Turkish background who live in Rotterdam, during a community event at the race. “It might not always go as you expect in life, sometimes circumstances can be very bad. But you can always try to make the best of it,” he said.

PROTOTYPE WINNERS

– Gasoline fuel: Lycee Saint-Joseph la Joliverie, France with a run of 3,314.9 kilometers per liter (7,797 miles per gallon) with their vehicle, Microjoule.

– Diesel fuel: I.U.T. Valenciennes, France with a run of 1,300.1 kilometers per liter (3,058 mpg) with their vehicle, Autonomie 3.

– Battery electric: T.U. Graz, Austria with a run of 1,091.6 kilometers (678 miles) per kilowatt hour with their vehicle, Fennek.

– Hydrogen: Hogeschool van Amsterdam, The Netherlands with a run of 428.5 kilometers (266 miles) per kilowatt hour with their vehicle, H2A.

– Ethanol / GTL: Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse, France with a run of 2,757.2 kilometers per liter (6,485 mpg) with their vehicle, Tim05.

URBANCONCEPT WINNERS

– Gasoline fuel: Lycee Louis Delage, France, with a run of 468.8 kilometers per liter (1,102 mpg) with their vehicle, Roul’ Cagouille.

– Diesel fuel: University of Applied Sciences Offenburg, Germany with a run of 389.0 kilometers per liter (914 mpg) with their vehicle, Schluckspecht 4D.

– Battery electric: Lycee des Metiers de l’Energie Arles, France with a run of 312.1 kilometers (193.8 miles) per kilowatt hour with their vehicle, Berlinette II.

– Hydrogen: Polytech Nantes, France with a run of 150.5 kilometers (93.5 miles) per kilowatt hour with their vehicle, Cityjoule la joliverie.

– Ethanol / GTL: Technical University of Denmark, with a run of 599 kilometers per liter (1409 mpg) with their vehicle, DTU Dynamo.

*Shell is sponsor of the Great Energy Challenge. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.