Shell Eco-marathon Races to the Future in Detroit

Modified: January 19, 2022 | Story by Michelle Fusco | Photos by Shell Oil Company

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas invites student teams from North and South America to design, build and drive the most energy efficient cars they can. Winners go the furthest distance on the least amount of fuel. 2017 marked the event’s third consecutive year in Detroit.

The event moves to a new city every 3 to 5 years. When it was time to move (from Houston), organizers gravitated toward Detroit as their next host city.

Why Detroit?

“With close ties to the auto industry, Shell has several partners here,” said Neil Golightly, vice president, external relations, Shell Oil Company. “We also recognize Detroit’s rich legacy of energy and innovation.”

In addition, Golightly sited ease of access to the airport from downtown (just 20 minutes away), the ability to move around town easily, and world-class attractions including The Henry Ford and the Detroit Institute of Arts as draws for the destination. “There is all kinds of supporting infrastructure to help put on a terrific event,” he added.

Winning the bid

Detroit Metro CVB staff, led by President Larry Alexander, were excited at the opportunity and fully committed to winning the business. They had an assist from Detroit-based Rock Ventures in securing the event.

“The city tours hosted by Rock Ventures helped our steering committee to make an informed decision about choosing Detroit as our event destination,” said Melissa Cantwell, strategic partnership advisor for Shell Oil Company.

Rock Ventures serves and connects Quicken Loans Founder Dan Gilbert’s portfolio of more than 100 companies, with a mission to increase growth and prosperity in the city.

“We are eager to attract more than 1 million visitors to Detroit this year through a combination of city tours, signature event sponsorships and activation in downtown spaces and a significant investment in the neighborhoods and education,” said Helen Davis Johnson, vice president, Community Activation, Rock Ventures. “We have seen first-hand that visitors will be amazed by our city, while also directly helping to create tourism-related service jobs, attract talent to Detroit and contribute to the powerful and positive image of the city.”

Detroit Rises to the Occasion

The logistics of the Shell Eco-marathon, including transporting 1,200+ high school and college students, family and faculty, and accommodating international teams, were challenging, but Detroit was up for the task. The Shell Eco-marathon was a featured element of Make the Future Detroit, A Festival of Bright Energy Ideas, a four-day festival that celebrates the future of energy and mobility. The event relied on some of the DMCVB’s member partners to help make it all come together.

Corporate Production Services (CPS) was proud to provide destination management services for Shell’s Make the Future Detroit.  Over two days, we managed the safe and organized movements of roughly 11,000 local students, who came to the festival on field trips, and about 300 buses,” said Troy Springer, president of CPS.

Of course, the safety and security of the students who compete is a top consideration. “Part of the reason we chose Huntington Place is that it provides a safe, secure, fun and competitive environment and students can also experience the city,” said Golightly, who formerly worked in Detroit. “One of the changes I’ve seen that has impressed me the most is how the city has built a walkable, livable, safe environment right in downtown.”

The recently renovated Huntington Place met and exceeded the many requirements of the event. Huntington Place now connects with the best of the city around it. The atrium has a view of the Detroit River and the Grand Ballroom is amazing both from a technical and aesthetic standpoint.

“The Huntington Place staff is top notch. Every request we made was considered and most anything was possible,” said Cantwell. 

“It is an exciting time to be in Detroit. The comeback of this great city is in full swing,” said Claude Molinari, general manager of Huntington Place. “The final phase of the $279 million transformation of Huntington Place is complete and the results are breathtaking. Beyond the interior changes, advanced technology upgrades make the new Huntington Place a world-class facility, and Detroit a competitive event destination.”

On the Right Track

Detroit is Shell’s only event where the competing vehicles travel on city streets with real world grade changes. Road surfaces of the .9 mile track, which runs through the streets of downtown, have to be in peak condition.

“Detroit supporter Roger Penske and Team Penske were phenomenal. They shared their Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix contacts, helped us to get clearance from the city to close the streets and shared their recommendations for the contractors we used to repave the roads where the track runs,” said Cantwell.

The Motor City Delivers

“There were many great reasons we chose Detroit. As the birthplace of modern mobility, the place where Henry Ford had his first auto factory and the first mile of paved road, there was no better place to host the Shell Eco-marathon,” said Cantwell.  “For anyone looking for an event destination, I would not hesitate to recommend Detroit 100 percent.”

For information on how Detroit can help drive your next convention or event, visit Plan Your Meeting.

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Mentioned Attractions And Venues

  1. 1
    The Henry Ford
    20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124
  2. 2
    Detroit Institute of Arts
    5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
  3. 3
    Rock Ventures LLC
    1074 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226
  4. 4
    Huntington Place
    One Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226
  5. 5