by Canadian Fuels Staff

Alexander Winter, in yellow shirt, along with fellow members of the Alérion Supermileage team take a break from work to pose for a photo in Detroit.

Alexander Winter was confident for good reason. Heading into Shell’s Eco-marathon in Detroit in April, Winter and the 20 person crew from Université Laval were the team to beat. A year earlier, the Alérion Supermileage team secured top-spot in the ultra-energy-efficient gasoline powered vehicle prototype category.

A fourth year Mechanical Engineering student and Team Manager at the event, Winter appeared less stressed than some of the other 1,200 student participants feverishly working on passing rigorous technical challenges in order to qualify for the main event.

“We’re confident” he said, gesturing to his teammates hovering around the compact vehicle in ‘the pit’. “We have plenty of time to improve and pass all the technical requirements” he said. “Our main goal is to improve each year”.

Mihskakwan James Harper, second from left, with the EcoMotion team from the University of Manitoba.

Bright minds, big effort

For many of the students, just getting to the event and passing the technical elements of Eco-marathon is a marathon in itself. The work is year-round.

Beside the Laval group, an empty booth waiting for the team from the University of Toronto was an unusual sight. “I’m not sure where they are, it’s a little weird” said Winter, when asked about the missing groupd—who also happened to be their biggest rival, having placed second the year before. It turned out that the Toronto team couldn’t get into the country with all of their equipment; a reminder of how much effortd—and heartached—can go into the event.

The Alérion Supermileage vehicle handles a corner in Detroit.

Canadian winners and notables

When the driving was done, the Alérion Supermileage team did not disappoint, taking first place in their category. Recording an impressive 2,713.1 miles per gallon, they also made good on their goal of improving year over year. In 2016, they recorded 2,585 miles per gallon.

Not all winners were a result of on-track performance. Shell awards six ‘off-track’ prizes, from Technical Innovation to Vehicle Design. University of Ottawa’s Supermileage uOttawa received the Communications Award for leveraging traditional media and local events to connect with their community, and sharing social media content in both English and French to reach a wider audience.

Of special note, and participating for the first time was the ecoMotion team from the University of Manitoba, led by Team Manager Mihskakwan James Harper. A fourth year Mechanical Engineering student originally from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, it was Mihskakwan’s initial vision to build a team and then a prototype battery-electric vehicle.

Impressively, ecoMotion was the only Canadian team to the pass technical requirements needed to participate in their category.

Well done, everyone.


For a complete list of results and to learn more about the event, visit:


It’s a unique competition that challenges students around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car. With three annual events in Asia, Americas and Europe, student teams take to the track to see who goes further on the least amount of fuel.

There are two classes or categories to the event. The Prototype class focuses on maximum efficiency. The Urban Concept class encourages more practical designs. Cars are also divided by energy type: Internal combustion engine vehicles fueled by gasoline, diesel, liquid fuel made from natural gas and ethanol. In the electric mobility category, vehicles are powered by hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-based batteries.