5900 kilometers on a single litre of Petrol

5900 kilometres

on a single litre of petrol

Zenith 33 is the name of the car built by researchers and students at Aarhus University. It managed to run 5900 kilometres on the equivalent of one single litre of petrol at the Shell Eco-marathon 2013

How far can you get a car to run on the equivalent of a single litre of petrol? This is the annual challenge of the Shell Eco-marathon international race. Aarhus University participated for the first time in 2013 and achieved an overall fifth place.

It was a baptism of fire for the group of engineering students from both AU Herning and the Department of Engineering who made up Team AU. A single semester - that was all they had to prepare for Aarhus University’s first ever participation in the Shell Eco-marathon.

They started with a general idea, then toiled in the workshop on the design and construction of the extremely efficient vehicle for hundreds of hours before managing to get the car ready at the very last minute. The first test run took place around a parking lot near the track in Rotterdam.

Fortunately Zenith 33, as the car was christened, surpassed all expectations in its class for battery/electric vehicles. It drove a total of 661.80 kilometres per kilowatt hour (kWh), which converts to an efficiency of approximately 5900 kilometres on a single litre of petrol.

Team AU achieved an overall fifth place out of 224 teams from 24 countries.


The car is a self-supporting construction made of carbon fibre which provides greater rigidity and strength in relation to its weight:

  • The vehicle’s size and shape are the result of a compromise as both weight and air resistance affect performance. Greater length gives a low air resistance coefficient but also more surface area and weight
  • Zenith 33 is 2.90 m long, 0.57 m wide and 0.65 m high. The bottom of the car is raised approx. 0.15 m above the ground as this provides lower air resistance
  • The driver lies almost completely flat to reduce air resistance.
  • Zenith 33 has two front wheels and a rear wheel and integrated solar panels on the roof
  • The wheels are light carbon fibre disc wheels with ceramic bearings. They weigh less than wheels with spokes and have a lower air resistance during rotation

Zenith 33 version 2.0

In the all-new 2014-version, Zenith 33 version 2.0 will be equipped with two motors instead of one: a very small high-efficiency electric motor for driving with a constant speed and a larger motor that only starts running in connection with acceleration.

In total it will be 10 kg lighter which combined with a number of technical improvements will reduce the car’s air resistance by 33 percent compared to the 2013 model.