With its sleek low shape, low-resistance tyres and hi-tech battery technology, Peggie has a top speed of 18.6mph and aims to be one of the most power-efficient cars in the world.

The eco-friendly technology has been developed by engineering students at Oxford University .

But the car isn't the only thing that is sleek and low.

At 5ft 3in and 7st 11lb, driver Lucy Mahoney admits she has been recruited because she is “short and light”. She admits she has no experience of competitive driving.

The 28-year-old, a DPhil geography student at Mansfield College, said: “Driving it is quite a strange experience. It’s surprisingly noisy and you feel as if you’re going faster than you really are, as you’re so close to the ground.

“But otherwise it’s very comfortable.”

The vehicle is called Peggie, named after the university’s power and energy group, and will be the university’s competitor in the Shell Eco-Marathon, an international challenge for energy-efficient vehicles.

The team of students at the Institute for Advanced Technology at the Begbroke Science Park who created Peggie are confident of success at the event in the Netherlands next week.

There they will compete against 21 other entries from around the world in the battery electric vehicle category.

The winner of the competition will be the car that can travel the furthest using the least amount of energy.

Last year’s winner in the battery electric class set a record of 842.5km (523.5 miles) on 1 kilowatt hour of electricity – about the same amount of power used for a large load in a washing machine.

But this year the challenge has been set over three days on normal roads around Rotterdam, with the emphasis on how the driver and team react to real-life conditions.

Lead engineer Dr Justin Bishop said: “It’s a good way of demonstrating what we have done on paper and in simulations and putting it into practice.”

The team has been working with computer scientists from the Oxford Martin School’s Institute for the Future of Computing.

Nathan Ewin, 25, a DPhil student in engineering, said: “We will have computer and radio and video contacts which will feed back real-time data from the driver and vehicle, including factors such as wind speed and overall efficiency, which will then be calculated through a computer.”

Oxford Martin School director Prof Ian Goldin said: “Encouraging innovative projects is essential if we are to find new means of energy-efficient, low carbon transportation in the future.”

Dr Malcolm McCulloch, the director of the Institute for Carbon and Energy Reduction in Transport, who has been leading the project, added: “Events like the Eco marathon provide a valuable opportunity to showcase the latest technologies incorporated into these innovative prototypes, as well as to share knowledge and expertise.”