Thousands of students from across North and South America will gather at the Sonoma Raceway April 19-22 to race their hand built, environmentally friendly cars in a test of innovation and speed at the annual Shell Eco-Marathon.
Teams of students from 99 different high schools from Canada, to Peru to the United States, will finally have the chance to test and race their energy efficient vehicles that have been a part of a lengthy project to put student’s engineering and problem-solving skills to the test.
“Over 1,000 students will be competing, but it will probably be closer to around 1,100 students from across North, Central and South America,” says Jennifer Imbimbo, director of media relations at Sonoma Raceway.
The Shell Eco-Marathon, also part of the Make the Future California project, aims to provide students with an opportunity to develop their ideas for green technology in order to make the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly car possible.
“Shell Eco-Marathon is a global program built to offer students hands-on opportunities to develop ideas and technology, knowledge and skills, within an arena of competition… Looking at every aspect of design and technology, students compete to prove their bright ideas will produce the most energy-efficient vehicle when tested on the track,” according to a Sonoma Raceway news release.
Student teams must incorporate elements of streamlined design, driving strategy and lighter weight materials in order to make their creations as “green” as possible. The teams were given months to plan and construct their designs. Designs will be considered in either the Prototype category — which will challenge teams to submit “futuristic, streamlined vehicles designed purely to reduce friction and maximize efficiency,” or in the UrbanConcept category — which focuses on “roadworthy energy efficient vehicles.”
Their creations also must be based on one of five official energy sources, hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric technology or internal combustion with gasoline, ethanol or diesel.
They will then present and race their cars in two unique competitions, the Shell Eco-Marathon Mileage Challenge and the Drivers’ World Championship Regional Final. The mileage challenge will test out whose cars can go the farthest on the least amount of fuel and the regional final will be the conclusive event to choose the regional champion for efficiency and speed.
Races will take place on a newly-created .99 mile, five-turn course, which will start at the raceway’s start/finish line and go through some of its challenging “Esses” and sharp turns.
The regional champ of the race will then go onto the “Drivers’ World Championship Grand Final, which will be held in London in 2018,” according to the same press release.
According to Imbimbo, this is the first time the raceway gets to play host to the unique marathon.
“It is the first time in our raceway history. Last time they had it at the California Speedway and for the past three years they have been having it in the streets of Detroit,” Imbimbo said.
However, the raceway has embraced other types of green racing and likes the idea of having more eco-friendly series in a world of racing where cars usually can emit a lot of Greenhouse Gases, some NASCAR cars only getting a miniscule five miles per gallon, according to science.howstuffworks.com.
“We are certainly open to any eco-friendly series and certainly open to opening the track to Shell. Shell is open to a variety of other (eco-friendly) resources for the future that is not petroleum,” Imbimbo said.
In a September 2017 press release from Shell announcing Sonoma Raceway as the home for this year’s event, Sonoma Raceway President and General Manager, Steve Page, said the eco-marathon will be a “milestone” in the raceway’s effort for fostering eco-friendlier automotive technology.
“At Sonoma Raceway, we always strive to provide a showcase for the latest in green automotive technology and hosting the Shell Eco-marathon in 2018 will be a significant milestone in that effort… Best of all, this event provides a platform for the young people who will constitute the next generation of automotive designers, engineers and innovators. We are very excited to provide the forum for them to unveil and test their latest efforts,” Page said in a statement for the press release.
Imbimbo also mentioned the other types of “green” races that the raceway has hosted, such as an all-electric motorcycle race and a Prius Cup.
“We were the first track to host an all-electric motorcycle race, the TTXGP in 2011 and we have also hosted Tesla concept cars on our track,” Imbimbo said.
The Make the Future California/Shell Eco-Marathon event is free and open to the public and kicks off Thursday, April 19 at 9 a.m. with the Make the Future California Festival Open and the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas practice run from 2-6 p.m. For more information on the event, visit, sonomaraceway.com