If you're feeling down about the state of the environment, there are few things more heartening than to check out the winners of the annual Shell Eco-Marathon Americas. The competition challenges teams of high-school and college students to build incredibly energy-efficient vehicles that are powered by everything from gasoline and fuel cells to electricity and solar power.
More than 100 teams competed on the marathon's Houston racetrack this year, but repeat winner Université Laval once again took the prize for best mileage, its entry clocking in at 2,824 miles per gallon. The vehicle, dubbed the Alerion Supermileage, nearly lost due to electrical problems. But it won out in the end, even though Université Laval achieved a much higher fuel mileage—3,587 mpg—last year.
Other impressive teams included the No Spark Plug Allowed team from Sullivan, Indiana, which set a record for diesel vehicles in the competition at 1,899 mpg; the Tatonkatoo team from Boulder, Colorado, which hit 1,771 mpg with an ethanol vehicle; and St. Paul’s School from Covington, Louisiana, which built a seat in its diesel vehicle out of kombucha (seriously). One team made a 3-D printed steering wheel, another built a computer system that provides real-time wheel speed and wind resistance data, and yet another was made out of ultra-light carbon fiber materials.
Check out more of the competitors in the slideshow above.
[Images: 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Americas via Shell Eco-marathon / Flickr]