It is called the Shell Eco-Marathon Challenge.
It doesn't look like anything you'll see in a showroom and it won't be tearing up the racetrack any time soon.
But that's okay, these vehicles are being built for another kind of race, a race for fuel efficiency.
"We're hoping for 1,000 miles per gallon," said Agney Deshpande of the University of Michigan Super Mileage Team. "We would be extremely happy and extremely proud if the vehicle we put together can do that."
The University of Michigan "Super Mileage Team" has been working for about a year on this vehicle they call "Son of Cypress."
And over at Lawrence Technological University, the "Blue Devil Motorsports Team" is working on their vehicle called "Alpha."
They're two of about 100 teams from north and south America, competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon.
They may be prototypes, but the challenge is on the streets of Detroit - seven laps ont he .9 mile course that starts at Jefferson and Washington Boulevard outside Cobo Arena.
"They measure how much gas they use," said Liping Liu, an advisor to the Lawrence Tech team. "And the car that uses the least amount, wins."
The vehicles are powered with a lawnmower engine and gasoline and some of the parts are made with recycled items like pop cans.
The trick is to make the car as aerodynamic as possible, as small and as light as possible.
Both teams are mostly engineering students, but they come from a variety of programs including literature, science and arts - and even the business school.
The teams know that the competition is fierce. One year the winning vehicle got more than 3,000 miles per gallon.
But they're learning a lot from the experience.
And maybe we can learn a lot from them about using our resources more efficiently.