Where 3000MPG+ Cars Come To Compete: The Ecomarathon

Every year teams from around the world come together for the Ecomarathon, an event (ironically put on by Shell) that tasks teams from high schools and universities with creating energy-efficient electric, gas, and hybrid vehicles. This year’s competition was held in Detroit, so I headed over to check it out.

vehicle-blurThe event has two categories that vehicles compete in: prototype vehicles that compete for the highest fuel efficiency and “urban concept” vehicles that are more focused on normal driving environments and look slightly closer to street-legal vehicles. Cars in both categories can be fully electric or powered by gas, diesel, compressed natural gas, or other alternative fuels. Vehicles drive around a 0.9 mile track that weaves through downtown Detroit and the efficiency of each vehicle is measured as they complete a fixed number of laps around the track.

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Building a very low power, full featured desktop

For a few years now, [mux] has been playing around with extremely efficient computation. In 2010, he built a fully featured MiniITX / Core 2 duo computer that only consumed 20 watts. Last year, [mux] managed to build an Intel i3-powered desktop that was able to sip a mere 8.3 watts at idle. He’s back at it again, and now his sights are set on a fully featured Intel i5-powered build with a built-in monitor that will draw less than 6 watts of power.

Like his previous 8 watt i3 build, [mux] reduces the power requirement of his build by carefully┬ámeasuring┬áthe power draw of every component on his board. The power savings come from a simple fact of any power supply; when converting from AC to DC, or from one DC voltage to another, there’s always a little bit of power lost in the process.

[mux] reduces these power losses by removing a few voltage regulators and re-routing power lines across his motherboard. So far, the power draw on [mux]’s computer is more than half of what it was when the parts were stock, and we can’t wait for the finished build that includes a built-in monitor, UPS, and a proper case.