SMARTER MOBILITY

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Published on March 30, 2015 with No Comments

Vehicles lining up the track on Day One.

Vehicles lining up the track on Day One.
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The Shell Eco-Marathon started as a friendly wager but has now become a global event.

Words JEFFREY LIM
Images BRUNEI SHELL PETROLEUM SDN BHD

In 1939, a friendly wager began between scientists in a Shell research laboratory in the United States. The goal? To see who could get the most miles per gallon from their vehicle. The winner of that contest barely got 21 km/l, and from these humble origins, a more organised competition evolved. In 1985 in France, Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) as we know it today was born. Then in 2007, the first SEM Americas was held in the US. Not long after, the competition reached Asia with Malaysia hosting it in 2010. This year, The Philippines played host and will continue to host the event until 2016.

n a nutshell, this unique global race is about which team – represented by students from universities, colleges and technical institutes – can drive farthest on a litre of fuel. Not only that, the teams will be accompanied by their own design of a fuel-efficient vehicle. Giving an added edge to this year’s competition is the race track. Where previously Malaysia hosted the competition at the Sepang International Circuit, this year host Manila turned the streets of Luneta Park into a race track. The new urban setting allowed the students a real world driving experience, pitting their fuel-efficient creations against a real world environment.

Brunei Darussalam was proud to be one of the participants in this year’s SEM that saw 105 student teams from 15 countries across Asia and the Middle East competing. Five teams represented Brunei. Two each from Pusat Latihan Mekanik (PLM) and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) participated in the Prototype category of the competition while the other three teams, two from Sekolah Vokasional Sultan Bolkiah (SVSB) and one from PLM competed in the UrbanConcept vehicle category.

The Prototype category required a car design of the future – streamlined vehicles focused on maximising fuel-efficiency through innovative design elements, such as drag reduction. The UrbanConcept category focused more on “roadworthy” fuel-efficient vehicles. Aimed at meeting the real-life needs of drivers, these vehicles resemble the higher-mileage cars seen on the roads today.

The Brunei team’s first challenge was to take their vehicle through technical inspection before it was allowed onto the track. Each car was chipped and passed through a series of stations. These include a ramp to test the brakes, a frame to check vehicle dimensions and giant scales. Prototype cars must not exceed 140 kg while UrbanConcept vehicles, which more closely resemble road cars, have a 205 kg weight limit.

The inspection also required the driver to see 180 degrees, vital when out on the track, and for drivers to evacuate their vehicle within 10 seconds in case of an emergency. At each station a trained staff member used an electronic pad to scan the car’s chip and record a pass or fail. Teams had to work to resolve any problems before returning to the circuit for the next try.

What made this event stand out is Brunei’s all-female team at the event. Team PLM Alpha 2 entered the race with a battery-electric-powered Prototype, a black-and-yellow capsule resembling a giant wasp’s body on wheels. The team that had to overcome the most challenges was Bruda-Mech from SVSB to get their vehicle through technical inspection. In the end, all five Brunei vehicles passed the tests and were given the green light to race.

Once the cars passed the technical inspection, drivers proceeded to race around the 1.2 km track monitored by 16 closed-circuit cameras and an on-track safety team led by retired F3 champion Pepon Marave. Race drivers cannot overtake on corners or use the horn when overtaking elsewhere on the track. Drivers who violate the rules will receive a warning and can be disqualified. Drivers also had 30 seconds to try restarting their car if stalled before any of the 26 marshals lift them off the track to safety.

Drivers aim to complete 10 laps before officials measure the fuel used and calculate the equivalent per kWh or per litre. Only two Brunei teams had a valid run on track. They were the all-female team Alpha 2 from PLM with their best mileage of 52.7 km/kWh and GenNext II from UBD with 112.1 km/kWh which also earned them 10th placing in the competition.

Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2014 saw 24 On-Track awards with prize money of US$2,000 and US$1,000 for Winners and Runners up in both Prototype and UrbanConcept categories. Team Indonesia and Team Thailand emerged major victors at this year’s competition with four and three champion titles each respectively. Additionally, Shell also gave Off-Track awards such as Communications, Vehicle Design, Technical Innovation, Safety, Perseverance and Spirit of the Event and Shell Helix Tribology Award. The Shell Helix Tribology Award is an off-track award that recognises student teams that demonstrate the use of lubrication engineering principles to improve the fuel efficiency result of their vehicles.

Team Brunei may not have won, but the outing proved they were able to achieve a lot – teamwork spirit, communication and camaraderie – while making their country proud.

Team Brunei is proudly sponsored by Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP) and Brunei Shell Marketing Company Sdn Bhd (BSM).

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