The Jetsons met Captain Planet on the tracks of the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lampur.
A flurry of bright jumpsuits, flying wrenches and fluttering flags dot the circuit as students remain elbow deep on what are probably the oddest, futuristic vehicles to hit the racing track.
Some barely two feet off the ground, others egg-shaped, dolphin-like and even supporting silver frames in true Pakistani fashion. Welcome to the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2011.
In the three-day event, students take up the challenge to design, build and drive vehicles not to see whose car speeds to the finishing line first, but rather which goes the furthest with the least amount of fuel. The goal is to achieve smarter mobility for a sustainable future.
Ninety-three student teams from all over Asia, including nine from Pakistan, participated in the Shell Eco-marathon, building their own prototype (futuristic) and urban concept (conventional four wheeled) cars using fuels as diverse as diesel, gasoline or biofuels, as well as alternative energy sources like solar, hydrogen and plug-in electricity.
Green, white and hopeful
Amid a train of slick vehicles, the Pakistani cars stood out in their own unique way with their rugged exteriors, rough edges and matte finish. It just proved that a bunch of eager students built them – blood, sweat, tears and, of course, duct tape, on display.
The Shell representatives from Pakistan took personal interest in their teams. Abid Ibrahim, Shell’s General Manager of External Affairs, insisted that it was the students’ hard work and commitment needed to be highlighted while Afshan Khan, Shell’s Social Investment Manager spoke of watching the teams on the track and how proud she felt at that moment.
The Pakistani teams included Aqua II from the GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Pak Pacers from the University of Engineering & Technology Taxila, The Y-Nots! and Air-X from Air University, Paragon and Winmark from NED University, Emenents UC and Emenents PT from National University of Science and Technology, and Pak Thunder from HITEC University.
Underdogs Pak Pacers said they were satisfied with their performance, with team member Awais Ali commenting, “This was our first time. We were the first to qualify and complete the laps amongst the Pakistani teams.”
While the teams were successful in testing Shell’s goal for smarter mobility, the journey was less than smooth. Almost all the teams had their cars delivered two days late, meaning they started working on last minute technicalities a lot later than the other teams.
Team leader of Winmark from NED University Harris Rehman said that never in the 27 years of the start of the Eco-marathon had such a problem occurred. “If the delay in the clearance of the cars had not happened, we would have emerged as winners,” he confided.
His teammate Hassan Abbasi added that the only thing the team lacked was ‘a backup plan for bad luck.’
Although the teams did not manage to grab any awards, their spirit remained intact, and with distant chants of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ echoing from the pits, it was home away from home in Malaysia on Saturday evening.
Sustainable future a necessity
When asked where Pakistan stands in terms of energy potential and global investment, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Dutch Shell plc Peter Voser said “Shell is already engaged locally. We are open to discussions with Pakistan, which is high on our priority list.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2011.