Skid Marks

Shell Eco Marathon 2018: what I learned


Students from 18 countries show off their self-built energy-efficient vehicles

While I generally like cars to go fast, because they are more fun, I’m a huge fan of Shell Eco Marathon, which is all about efficiency rather than outright speed.

You see, in order for us to enjoy our motoring future, we need the ingenuity and know-how brought about by today’s crop of engineering and science students.

These future engineers and scientists will eventually revolutionize their own respective fields, helping ensure our future’s power needs are met.

And we have Shell, the world’s leading energy company to thank for sponsoring this event, and gathering some of the best and brightest minds in the region.

Aside from Asia, Shell holds similar events in Europe and the Americas.

There is a huge need for finding cleaner, more efficient energy. Quite frankly, the numbers are staggering.

Today, the world has a total population of around 7.6 billion people as of March 2018, according to the most recent United Nations statistics.

By 2030, Shell projects that there will be an additional 2 billion people living in this planet.

But as more people are also able to pull themselves out of the energy poverty line, the need for clean, renewable energy by 2030 will actually be 50 percent more of what it is today.

By 2050? Shell projects we will need double of what we are consuming now. Gulp.

Finding energy isn’t all that hard. But it’s finding clean, renewable energy, while making it efficient and long-lasting is the real challenge.

Today, only 20 percent of all energy is battery-electric; the rest still utilize carbon-based fuels (mostly fossil, and some bio fuels) in some form to generate electricity, or to power mechanical energy driven devices such as planes, trains and automobiles.

The cost for building solar and wind farms to reach a critical mass, enough to power a substantial portion of a city, is still prohibitive, and we have geographical and environmental limitations to contend with as well.

Shell says the future of clean, renewable energy isn’t set in stone yet: there are many possible options available, but localized government regulation makes it difficult to pick a particular path to develop.

Nanyang Technologicla Institute’s NTU-3D Printed Car garnered top-spot in the hydrogen fuel-cell category.

No wonder, Shell wants to try everything. Each year, the company invests just over a billion dollars into research and development, finding new ways to deliver clean, renewable energy, or to create processes and methods to ensure current technologies become cleaner, more efficient and safer to use and handle.

Aside from the money, roughly 2,500 researchers, scientists, engineers and various academe form part of Shell’s R&D team.

Big bold plans for a very challenging future indeed. But thankfully, we are giving tomorrow’s generation of engineers and scientists a good push, thanks to the Shell Eco Marathon.

Aside from giving students a chance to plan, conceptualize, design and build prototype working vehicles and test out their ideas, the Shell Eco Marathon allows students to meet with, exchange ideas and be mentored by some of the top engineers and scientists in disciplines as diverse as software programming, aerodynamics and computational fluid dynamics, internal combustion and mechanical sciences, materials analysis and design, and so on.

Crucially, it helps put millenials in a situation where they are faced with great adversity without the reassuring comfort of mommy and daddy holding their hands, patting their backs, and telling them what to do.

We all have to man up someday, and Shell Eco Marathon is a perfect venue for this.

In this year’s 2018 running of the Shell Eco Marathion, 127 teams from all over Asean, Asia, and even the Middle East came to compete.

I’m proud to say that seven teams from the Philippines came to compete, which gives me a great sense of pride.

Going off tangent here, I feel that the Philippines can better improve its international competitiveness if the local educational system as well as the government gave more focus and support on TEMS (technology, engineering, mathematics and sciences) subjects and fields.

Universities from Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, India and China have very impressive scientists, engineers and mathematicians, which gives them a huge competitive advantage worldwide.

It also helps the local manufacturing industries in their respective countries: Thailand is Asia’s Motor City, China builds almost every major mass consumer durable, and India is home to simple yet innovative engineering solutions and ideas.

We need balance in our educational system and professional fields. We need more scientists, engineers and mathematicians (who make for perfect mid- to top-level managers in any process-oriented industry.

Back to the race, the winners in the prototype category (single-seater concept cars that look like cigars) that is really pushing the envelope for efficiency are:

Panjavidhyal Technological Institute of Thailand achieved first place in the Internal Combustion Engine category with an astonishing 2,341.1 kilometers per liter, besting last year’s record of 2,289 kilometers per liter.

(If we could consistently get even just 1 percent of these figures in today’s mass-produced vehicles, that would be amazing.)

Guangzhou College of South China University of Technology garnered best in the battery electric class with 511 kilometers per kilowatt hour in their Huaqi-EV car.

Temasek University of Singapore’s TP Eco Flash car achieved an impressive 404.3 kilometers per cubic meter of hydrogen fuel cell power.

The second category is the urban prototype class. These vehicles should resemble a modern passenger car that seats two persons, and has working lights, wipers and horns.

The winners in this category were:

ITS Team 2 vehicle from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember from Indonesia, reaching an amazing 314.5 kilometers per liter.

Lac Hong University’s entry, named LH-EST, achieved an equally impressive 129.3 kilometers per kilowatt hour, enough to earn the Vietnamese Team top honors in their category.

Lastly, Singapore’s Nanyang Technologicla Institute’s NTU-3D Printed Car, a personal favorite of mine in 2015 when the event was running in Manila, garnered top-spot in the hydrogen fuel-cell category with 46.3 kilometers per liter per cubic meter of hydrogen.

On a side note, 3D-printing is truly the future of manufacturing. Of special mention is the EnduroKiwisTeam from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, which created a full 3D-printed engine (internals, block, head and all moving ancillaries) utilizing titanium for a lighter, more efficient and stronger engine design.

The team won this year’s Technological Innovation Award. I can see a lot of 3D printed parts for my Poopra in the future.

The Safety Award went to Garuda Uny Ecvo Team from Universitas Negeri, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The team actually tested their urban concept design’s safety and stability, the only team to do so.

Lastly, the NUST Eco-Motive Team from the National University of Science and Technology in Pakistan won the Perseverance and Spirit of the Event Award. When it was clear that the team would not pass technical inspection on Friday night, the team gave their engine, spare parts and all other equipment to other teams that needed odds and ends.

While the team’s efforts fell short, their spirit of camaraderie and goodwill helped bridge the gap towards international relations and friendship.

Truly, I have huge faith in these bright minds of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the Philippine teams didn’t do too well, but again, there is always next year to look forward to.

Congratulations to Shell, and to all the participants of the Shell Eco Marathon Asia 2018. Let’s make next year even bigger and better, and push ourselves further!

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