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Students at Duke University have established a new fuel economy record for fuel cell vehicles -- an incredible 14,573 miles per gallon. Here's how they did it.


Duke University Students Set World Record For Hydrogen Fuel Cell Fuel Economy — 14,573 Miles Per Gallon

Students at Duke University have established a new fuel economy record for fuel cell vehicles — an incredible 14,573 miles per gallon. Here’s how they did it.

Guiness World Records has confirmed that students from Duke University have set a new world fuel economy record for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — a stunning 14,573 miles per gallon. The record setting event took place at Galot Motorsports, a race track in Benson, North Carolina in July. The students established the record using Maxwell, a purpose built experimental vehicle that made use of a variety of technical innovations. The car was named for James C. Maxwell who did pioneering work creating the mathematical equations that describe electromagnetism.

Duke fuel cell vehicle

Maxwell circled the track for 8.5 miles using just one gram of pure hydrogen. “To put that in perspective,” says Patrick Grady, “our vehicle is capable of driving to any point on the globe using the energy in one gallon of gas.” Grady is a graduate of the Duke electrical engineering program and the outgoing president of Duke Electric Vehicles program.

That program is part of an energy community cultivated by the Energy Initiative, a Duke University interdisciplinary program whose goal is making knowledge serve the needs of society. The club publicly shares its designs so anyone interested in designing and fabricating high-efficiency vehicles can benefit from its research, according to Fuel Cell Works.

In an email comment to CleanTechnica, Nico Hotz, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who serves as an adviser to DEV, says, “This world record is a perfect example of how our ‘outrageously ambitious’ educational and research activities in Duke Engineering lead to remarkable and tangible results in the field of sustainable energy. By creating a collaborative and open environment and community, we enable our students to reach groundbreaking results: DEV’s new fuel cell vehicle was designed, built and optimized entirely by the students themselves.”

In today’s overheated world of political machinations, it should be noted that all the members of the DEV team are children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren of immigrants. There is no record whether North Carolina officials investigated to make certain none of the students violated state law by using the wrong bathroom. Innovation cares little for such foolishness. Food for thought.

Shomik Verma, the incoming president of the DEV club, whose ancestors probably did not come to America aboard the Mayflower,  adds, “Building off the success of our hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, we are hoping to beat the battery electric vehicle record next year. Our electric efficiency is within five percent of the record based on our data from the recent attempt, so with improvements to the aerodynamics of the body and reduction in weight, we should be viable competitors for the record.”

Previously this year, Maxwell swept the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Sonoma, California, in the prototype vehicle category. Maxwell uses a bank of supercapacitors to provide the short bursts of energy the female driver needed to climb hills or accelerate. The fuel cell the students developed to recharge the supercapacitors is much smaller and lighter than those used by the competition. The novel design earned DEV a Technical Innovation Award in addition to the class win.

The major sponsors of the DEV team this past academic year include the Lord Foundation, GM Foundation, and NC Space Grant. Watch the video below to learn more about the DEV record setting vehicle.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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