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.
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.
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.”
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.