How this car gets 2,500 miles per gallon

It's not fast and it's not comfortable, but Canada's Alerion supermileage car trounced the competition at the Shell Eco-marathon, turning in a mind-bending fuel efficiency of 2,500 miles per gallon. That's about ten gallons to drive all the way around the planet at the equator, or about 90 gallons to get from here to the moon.

Obviously, this car, built by the Université Laval in Quebec City, isn't designed for you to go buy and merrily drive past gas stations in. For starters, you probably wouldn't fit in it, and if you sneezed inside it, it might explode. But as a platform for exploring just how much distance you can eke out of a tiny amount of gasoline, the Alerion supermileage car is about as good as it gets, and it beat out its competitors in the Shell Eco-marathon by nearly 800 mpg.

The body of the car is made from carbon fiber, and it weighs less that 25 pounds. To fit inside, the driver is essentially laying on their back and looking out between their feet, and this posture enables the drag coefficient of the car to be reduced to 0.10. The engine itself started off as just a one cylinder, 3.5 hp, four-stroke lawnmower engine, and every team gets the same one. It's the modifications that create all that mad efficiency, though, and the Alerion team endowed its engine with electronic fuel injection and electronic ignition to allow for much finer control.

The real secret to these mileage numbers, though, is that the engine is not in fact running most of the time. The car is so smooth and slippery that the engine only has to be turned on periodically, and even then not for very long. The rest of the time, the car is just coasting on its own momentum. So really, these ridiculous mileage numbers are the combination of a very efficient engine getting very good mpg, plus as much time as possible driving with the engine off, getting near-infinite mpg.

Alerion Supermileage Team, via Wired

For the latest tech stories, follow us on Twitter at @dvice