Over 100 student teams from 18 countries around Asia Pacific and the Middle East gathered in the mid-30 °C heat in Kuala Lumpur from April 29 to May 2 for the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2019. The team sponsored by Power Integrations, Team Dagisik UP from University of the Philippines, completed a successful campaign by reaching 95 km/kWh efficiency, second best in team history, with a battery-powered concept vehicle built from scratch. The experience competing on an international stage also laid a solid foundation for the team’s future.
Sporting PI’s logo and blue-and-white corporate color scheme, the eye-catching new car was a real crowd-pleaser at Sepang International Circuit, drawing many race participants for photo ops throughout the event.
The competition includes two major categories: Prototype and Urban Concept. Each is then divided into sub-categories based on fuel type. Prototype is the more efficiency-focused of the two categories, with most cars having only three wheels and just enough room for the driver to lie flat in the cockpit. Urban Concept cars have more amenities like two doors, rear-view mirrors, an upright seat and a lighting system. The objective is to complete the 5.5-km former F1 circuit with the least amount of fuel.
Team RMUTP Racing from Thailand won the prototype category with an equivalent of 1,546.9 km/liter. That’s enough to drive from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand on a single liter of ethanol.
Weight reduction was a common theme during this year’s contest. Said Shreya Dixit, member of Team Panthera from India, one of three all-female teams in the field, “We have used aluminum 6031 for the chassis and carbon fiber for the shell to make the car lightweight and strong. For every kilogram add to the car, the fuel consumption increases by 2.3%. Our car gets around 280 kilometers with one charge of the battery.”
Before hitting the track, each car underwent a stringent inspection with over 200 checks covering everything from the structure to the powertrain. Effectively executing its pre-race plans, Team Dagisik was the second fastest team in the Urban Concept Battery-electric category to complete technical and safety inspections. Driver Jared Baniqued said, “Our biggest concern going in was the uphill second turn of the track, but the car handled it well. That means we did a good job with the electrical system.”
The crowded Urban Concept Battery-electric category saw the biggest leap in level of competition in recent years, with 5 of the 25 teams finished ahead of last year’s championship mark of 129.3 km/kWh. Team Dagisik’s 95 km/kWh was good for a respectable 8th place.
Three Urban Concept teams qualified for the Drivers’ World Championship in London on July 5, facing off with top teams from America and Europe. The ultimate winner will be awarded an invitation to visit the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 headquarters in Italy, where students will participate in exclusive workshops and learn from the best at Ferrari.
Team Dagisik Manger Christian Ong said, “I didn’t expect that so many teams would finish ahead of last year’s results. Even though we didn’t reach our goal of qualifying for the world race, it’s still a great experience for us. We did our best. In my opinion, we reached the limit of our car.”
Aside from the efficiency competition, the event also gave out off-track awards to recognize achievements in design, communication and perseverance. GUC Innovators from Egypt won the Technical Innovation Award and $3000 cash prize with a wire system that allows drivers with physical limitations to control the car via brainwave and facial movement.
To further collaboration between participating universities and industry partners, Shell Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding with six local universities on developing talent in energy efficiency.
All 8 of PI’s 2018 summer interns in the Philippines, including Ong, are key members of this year’s Team Dagisik. David Chen, PI Director of Applications Engineering, and Paul Morch, PI Operations Manager of Applications Engineering in the Philippines, were in the paddock all four days during the event, representing the official team sponsor and rooting for their former interns. Ong said, “PI showed us a lot of support by coming here and being with us in the Malaysian heat. That’s really one of the best things [about the competition] for me.”
Morch said, “When these students applied for our internship, we put them through the exact same interview process as our regular employees, and the eight we chose all turned out to be great interns. I knew they would do a good job building a new car. We would have loved for them to finish in the top 3, but I still think they represented themselves very well.”
Nine support team members, many of whom could form the core of Team UP Dagisik next year, flew in from Manila just in time on Day 3 to cheer on the car they helped build as it hit the track for its final attempt, during which Mechanical Head Charles Cayno got his chance to sit behind the wheel. Cayno said, “Competing on a former F1 track was so much fun. It made us forget about the hot weather and just go to work.”
In addition to record-breaking number of participants and efficiency results, this year’s event also made history by having the first night race in the history of Shell Eco-Marathon globally. “The introduction of the night races allows drivers to experience a better driving environment,” said Shell Eco-Marathon Global Technical Director Norman Koch. “The cockpit can be really hot, especially for the prototype category. The cooler temperatures may have helped with the outcome.”
Teams arrange for their own finances and own rights to all the tech and innovations they develop. Koch emphasized the real world challenges of teamwork, restricted timeframes and resources. “We are not just teaching these kids technology, but we are teaching them life skills,” he said.
Some of these life lessons were learned the hard way. One of the 12 teams from the Philippines arrived in Sepang with only its car and no crew because it was unable to raise enough additional funds after shipment of the vehicle. Another Pilipino team asked for permission to sleep in the paddock after running out of money for hotel accommodation.
“We have built this event over the years to be more than just a competition. We are building a community,” said Xiaowei Liu, Shell’s VP of External Relations, APAC. “We are always trying new things, and the students are constantly surprising us with new ideas. Last year, one of the teams from Pakistan didn’t pass the inspection and was eliminated. Instead of packing up and going home, the team donated parts from its car to help other teams continue in the race. That’s the kind of community spirit we want to create.”
For more details on this year’s competition, visit the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia official website: https://www.shell.com/make-the-future/shell-ecomarathon/asia.html