Houston, Texas – Students from across North and South America are designing and testing their vehicles to compete in the fifth annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas next April, which will expand its categories in 2011 to include plug-in electric vehicles. The marathon requires student teams to build cars that can go the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas is an offshoot of the global Shell Eco-marathon, which has been challenging students for more than 25 years. Two teams, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Indiana, have already registered to compete in the plug-in vehicles category.

Similar to last year, student teams are encouraged to participate in one or both categories. The “Prototype” category involves futuristic, streamlined vehicles focused on maximizing fuel efficiency through design elements such as drag reduction, while the “Urban Concept” category, introduced for the 2009 event, focuses on more “roadworthy” vehicles aimed at meeting the real-life needs of drivers. For both categories, teams can use any conventionally available energy source, including diesel, gasoline, hydrogen, biomass, solar and now, electric plug-in.

This year, plug-in electric vehicles can be entered alongside hydrogen fuel cells and solar vehicles in the Electric Mobility energy division, and must be fully electric using lithium or similar type batteries, with lead acid batteries not permitted.

For more information, or to register a team, visit Shell Eco-marathon.

Connect with Autos.ca