Pakistani teams prepare for race of their lives at the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2011.
Every year Shell hosts Eco-marathons (SEM) in Europe, Asia and the Americas where high school and university student teams from around the world design, build, collect sponsorships for and compete ultra-efficient cars on a track.
In 2010 a team from France broke the Eco-marathon world record by driving the equivalent of over 4,000 kilometres on a litre of fuel – the equivalent of driving from Karachi to Kuala Lumpur.
The idea for the competition is simple enough - ‘go further using less’ and was actually something which started in 1939 as a a friendly wager between Shell scientists in the US to see whose car could go the furthest using the least amount of fuel.
This year, for the Asian race, one hundred and twenty teams from 14 different countries across Asia are busy preparing for the competition’s second event in Malaysia in July.
Team Winmark from NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi are working to build an urban concept vehicle this year. There are two broad categories of vehicles in SEM, the prototype category which is a futuristic design or similitude of what is yet to come in the field of automobile engineering, and the urban category which is quite open for mass-production and more road-legal. Winmark’s car, Uzba, which fittingly translates to camel, is designed to go over 200 kilometers in 1 liter of gasoline.
Other teams are designing their cars to consume alternative forms of fuel, AIR University’s Y-Nots, hailing from Islamabad, have designed an Ethanol powered car which they hope will push the limits in that fuel-category by travelling more than 140 kilometers on one litre of fuel. UET Taxila’s Pakpacers hope to contribute to solutions for the energy crisis with their vehicle which has a unique outer body design making it light weight and, they hope, more readily reproducible commercially.
But as many teams now know, it isn’t just a great design and technological skill that makes you a successful competitor at SEM – exposure and marketing your vehicle is as important to getting you to that circuit track to compete. Teams have worked hard to organize their own media events, meet with sponsors and have showcased their work at various energy automotive and corporate sector forums.
PNEC Jauhar has participated in the Eco Marathon for the past two years – this year it has three student teams all vying to make it to Sepang Formula-One track in Kuala Lumpur. If three teams from one school weren’t proof enough of this student body’s enthusiasm about SEM, students have even set up an Eco Marathon Club! They have constructed a solar powered car and are working to innovate new conceptual designs of both prototype and urban vehicles to compete international events and perhaps begin a local competitive forum for energy efficient vehicles in Pakistan. The Club has faculty advisors and a board of student managers to act as a resource for current and future Eco-marathon teams.
“The Eco-marathon is one of the most exquisite platforms for the engineering community at large. It amasses students, researchers, scientists and hobbyists in addressing one of the most crucial issue of our age: achieving a sustainable and energy efficient world.” - Team Aqua II, GIK, 2011
Movement is necessary – billions of us depend on it to access jobs, markets, education and remotely located family and communities. As the global population climbs from around six and a half billion today to an estimated nine billion by the middle of this century, the need for movement will only grow.
This requires energy – a lot of it. Roughly one fifth of the world’s energy today is used for transport, and over 60% of the world’s oil production used for transport is even higher – over 60 percent.
If the number of cars and trucks on the road increases from 900 million today to 2 billion by mid-century – as some predict – it’s not hard to see that the demand for transport energy could become a costly challenge to meet. Costly both financially but also environmentally - cars and trucks on the road today emit roughly one quarter of worldwide man-made carbon dioxide emissions.