Fu­elled by pas­sion

A car that can take you from Manila to Jakarta on one litre of fuel – that’s the kind of en­gi­neer­ing you get at Shell eco-marathon asia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By CHRIS­TINE CHEAH allther­age@thes­tar.com.my

TALK about a car race with a dif­fer­ence – in­stead of speed­ing ahead to cross the fin­ish line first, teams do what­ever it takes to stay out on the track for as long as they can.

In­tro­duc­ing the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2014, a com­pe­ti­tion that brings to­gether the con­ti­nent’s bright­est en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents to de­sign, build and “race” in a car that can travel the fur­thest on the low­est amount of fuel.

But one thing’s for sure, it’s def­i­nitely a marathon for the stu­dents in­volved. The 105 col­lege/univer­sity teams from all over Asia would have spent months build­ing their cars from scratch, and R.AGE was right there at Luneta Park, Manila, Philip­pines to see how the 16 Malaysian teams would fare.

Fu­ture en­ergy

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, global en­ergy, wa­ter and food de­mand would rise by 40-50% by 2030. The Shell Eco-marathon Asia is an event to in­spire the re­gion’s bright­est young minds to come up with so­lu­tions to those prob­lems, along­side the Shell Pow­er­ing Progress To­gether fo­rum which ad­dresses the sus­tain­abil­ity of the world’s vi­tal re­sources among busi­ness lead­ers and govern­ment of­fi­cials.

The idea for the com­pe­ti­tion started off in 1939 as a friendly wa­ger be­tween two Shell re­search sci­en­tists in the United States over who could travel the fur­thest on the same amount of fuel. It has since ex­panded to three dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents, with the Asian event in­tro­duced in 2010 right here in Malaysia.

Al­ready the com­pe­ti­tion has yielded some as­tound­ing re­sults. At this year’s event, Team How Much Ethanol from Pan­javid­hya Tech­no­log­i­cal Col­lege, Thai­land drove 2,730km on just one litre of ethanol to take the top prize. That’s the equiv­a­lent of driv­ing from Manila to Jakarta. That first con­test back in 1939? They barely man­aged 21km/l.

The all-time record for Shell Eco­marathon Asia is 2,903km/l, set in 2012 on the Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit, Malaysia, where the event had been held for the past three years. The streets of Luneta Park, how­ever, gave teams a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge this year as they pro­vided a more real-world en­vi­ron­ment to test the ve­hi­cles.

The teams are di­vided into two main cat­e­gories – pro­to­type and ur­ban con­cept. The for­mer is all about stream­lined, fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing de­signs that max­imise the ve­hi­cles’ fuel ef­fi­ciency, while the lat­ter is for cars that are more sim­i­lar to on-the-road ve­hi­cles.

Both cat­e­gories are then di­vided into fur­ther sub-cat­e­gories, based on the type of fuel used – petrol gaso­line, al­ter­na­tive gaso­line, diesel, al­ter­na­tive diesel, hy­dro­gen and bat­tery elec­tric.

Univer­sity Sains Malaysia man­u­fac­tur­ing en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate Jeff Quek, a mem­ber of USM’s EVT team, said for the par­tic­i­pants of Shell Eco-marathon, it’s not just about win­ning the com­pe­ti­tion and hon­ing their prac­ti­cal skills – it’s about work­ing to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture.

“We want to be part of a more sus­tain­able fu­ture,” he said. “We know that oil and gas won’t last for­ever, so we have to start find­ing a so­lu­tion now.”

Shell Malaysia chair­man Iain Lo added: “Com­pe­ti­tions like Shell Eco-marathon are op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to be a part of the so­lu­tion to the world’s en­ergy chal­lenges. It en­cour­ages stu­dents to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo and take mea­sures to­wards prob­lem solv­ing. This is the in­no­va­tive mind-set that will be es­sen­tial in help­ing Malaysia trans­form into a de­vel­oped, high-in­come econ­omy.”

Money mat­ters

Build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture re­quires in­vest­ment, even if it’s for a stu­dent com­pe­ti­tion. Fund­ing and spon­sor­ship for the teams al­low them to fo­cus on en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions, but un­for­tu­nately, they’re not all that easy to come by.

Team Ot­to­bot from Univer­siti Tunku Ab­dul Rah­man, how­ever, didn’t let their lack of a spon­sor stop them. They built their car, the UTAR M3, en­tirely out of the trav­el­ling al­lowance pro­vided by the or­gan­is­ers. It cost them less than RM2,000.

What’s even more crazy is that they dis­as­sem­bled the ul­tra-light UTAR M3 and checked in all the parts in their lug­gage on the flight to Manila to save on ship­ping costs. They also had to go through the has­sle of declar­ing the “goods” at the Philip­pine em­bassy in Kuala Lumpur ahead of their flight.

“We couldn’t get any spon­sors be­cause we are a new team. In Malaysia, you can’t con­vince spon­sors if you don’t have a track record,” said team man­ager Vis­hant Sel­vara­jah, 22.

“The fact that we are here alone is a suc­cess. We never thought we could make it on such a low budget.”

In con­trast, team UKM1 CARICE from Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia re­vealed that their car cost be­tween RM30,000-40,000, and they were lucky to have ob­tained spon­sor­ships from their univer­sity and other lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The team used the same car they had built for Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2012, but mod­i­fied to run on ethanol. The most chal­leng­ing part, how­ever, was pro­duc­ing the fiber­glass bodyshell of the car.

“We did ev­ery­thing our­selves with­out out­sourc­ing any of the parts. So to make the bodyshell hard, smooth and aero­dy­nam­i­cally ef­fi­cient was very dif­fi­cult,” said mar­ket­ing team leader Nur Na­jwa­neena Mo­hamad Lok­man, 22.

One thing’s for sure – de­spite all the chal­lenges, you’ll still see these young en­gi­neers back at the event next year, ready to push the bound­aries of fuel-ef­fi­cient en­gi­neer­ing all over again.

Driv­ing the fu­ture: Over 100 teams from all over asia par­tic­i­pated in the Shell eco-marathon asia 2014 at Luneta Park in Manila, Philip­pines, where the goal is for teams to de­sign, build and ‘race’ the most fuel-ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle.

flag. estrada launch­ing the event with

a wave of the che­quered Manila Mayor Joseph Malaysian team uiTM eco-Sprint, from univer­siti Te­knologi Mara Shah alam, won the pro­to­type hy­dro­gen cat­e­gory. The eco-marathon had 12 on-track awards, each based on the type of ve­hi­cle (pro­to­type or ur­ban con­cept) and the fuel it is pow­ered by.

The driver for Team eco-Voyager from univer­sity Malaya pre­par­ing for the long race. Teams usu­ally field pint-sized driv­ers as weight de­creases over­all fuel ef­fi­ciency.

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