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Many green car enthusiasts love a hypermiling challenge. They'll eagerly drive in the slow lane, forego air-conditioning, and take different routes to and from work to make the most of downhill traffic, just to boost fuel economy by a couple of miles per gallon.
But as hard as those folks try, they'll never, ever achieve the MPGs earned by students at Penn State University’s Behrend College. According to Detroit News, Behrend's budding engineers recently recorded fuel economy well over 1,000 miles per gallon.
Of course, they didn't accomplish that feat using a run-of-the-mill sedan. Like other teams from Brigham Young and Northern Illinois University, they built their car from scratch as part of the Society of Automotive Engineers' Supermileage competition.
For 34 years, SAE has sponsored the Supermileage challenge, inviting university students to design and build their own single-person, fuel-efficient vehicles. Those vehicles are put on a 9.6-mile track in Michigan, where they run until they can't run no more.
This year, the Penn State team managed to record a whopping 1,290 MPG. They didn't rely on newfangled hybrid or electric technology, though. Like every other team, they used a standard four-cycle engine built by Briggs & Stratton, installed on a specially built vehicle that was lightweight, aerodynamic, and generally as friction-free as possible. (We'd also wager that they put some of their skinniest members behind the wheel.)
As impressive as such achievements may be, Penn State's supermiler won't appear on car lots anytime soon. Such special vehicles are far too low and slow for the road, reaching just above knee-height on your average adult and maxing out at top speeds of 25 MPH or so.
However, if you own an electric car like the Tesla Model S or the Nissan Leaf, or if you sit behind the wheel of an extended-range vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt, you can already achieve well above the 1,000 MPG benchmark -- so long as you park near an electrical outlet.