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Shell conducts its Eco Marathon event in Chennai
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Shell conducts its Eco Marathon event in Chennai

By Ganesh Murthy

Published on :
Shell conducts its Eco Marathon event in Chennai

We all know that the world is going to run out of oil someday and hence many automotive manufacturers are plummeting headlong into the world of electrics for sustainable mobility. To address this very issue and preserve the oil for a bit longer, Shell, an international oil company that supplies crude oil products and chemicals, has brought its ‘Eco Marathon’ event as a part of its ‘Make the Future’ initiative  to India. This is the first time that the event was held in India, to encourage students from engineering colleges to build the most fuel-efficient car. The event brought together 247 students from 20 student teams, challenging them to design, build and drive energy efficient vehicles. The maximum fuel efficiency and minimum energy consumption per km recorded was declared winner. Winners in different categories like IC engines and EVs got cash prizes which summed up to Rs 20 lakh.

The winners

154kmpl. That’s what Team DTU Supermileage, the student team from Delhi Technical University managed to get out of their Urban concept vehicle in the IC engine category.  To give a perspective, that is the same distance if you were to drive from Chennai to Pondicherry, only difference is that the car would consume only a litre of fuel while doing so. They were crowned winners in the IC engine Urban category.

The DTU college students were ecstatic after topping in their category. They said, “It’s a proud feeling for all of us today. Months of hard work and sleepless nights have been invested in preparing our vehicle. We hope we can take this forward and achieve even better results the next year.”

In the IC engine prototype category, the winning team was Team Eco Titans from VIT University, who clocked an impressive fuel economy of 129.2kmpl in their prototype vehicle. In the Prototype battery electric vehicle category, Team Averera from IIT-BHU achieved a figure of 362.5 km/kWh, which is the same as using just a unit of electricity to drive from Chennai to Bengaluru. The three teams won a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh each for their achievements.

Members of team Averera said, “The feeling of accomplishment is amazing.Our project is a testament to team’s hard work and perseverance. To participate and win in the first edition of Shell Eco-marathon is India is the icing on the cake.”

There were other awards off the track, too. Team Averera won two awards  – one for safety and another for communications. Team Methodos from Government Engineering College, Barton Hill was awarded The Jugaad Award (Technical Innovation) for their use of bamboo for the vehicle’s body.

How did they achieve these numbers?

There are a number of parameters. You have to go in slow speeds to achieve maximum fuel efficiency. Aerodynamics plays an important role in the Prototype models. Sometimes, the students turn off the ignition and rely on the initial power and torque to keep the vehicle going. These are cars designed and fabricated by using lightweight materials (like carbon fibre, wood, etc), basic wiring harness, no suspension and tyres taken from bikes or bicycles. The chassis is aluminium though. There is space for only one and you sit on the floor of the car with or without a seat. The engines used in these vehicles were taken from commuter bikes, scooters and the engine capacities varied from 35cc to 88cc. Power and torque varied from 2-4bhp and 2-4Nm. Carburettors were ditched, and students had to use EFI. Ecotrons ECUs were used to alter the air-fuel mixtures sent to the engine. Exhaust and intakes were modified. CVTs were used as transmissions. The weight of the car was not to exceed 140kg. Some prototype cars tipped the scales at just 50kg.

What are Urban and Prototype categories?

The Urban category comprised models made by the students that look like small cars. The Prototype, on the other hand, is a sleek looking vehicle and aerodynamics is given importance, as a water droplet inspires the shape of the vehicle. It has two wheels at the front and a centrally positioned rear wheel. Seating position is similar to that of an F1 car, only much difficult. Students literally lied down and piloted the car. The handlebar like steering that some teams had was too close to get in or out of the prototype cars quickly.

The scrutiny

The students design and fabricate their models based on the standards set by Shell.  Safety was given utmost importance by the technical teams from Shell, who inspected the vehicles. Seat belt anchor points were checked, wiring systems, fuel systems were checked and so on. They checked if the all systems work properly. For example, in the prototype category, to check the brakes of the vehicles, there was a 20° slope, roughly some four metres in length, where the vehicles are supposed to stop immediately when they were rolled from the top, if either of the brakes were applied. This was called the brake-hold test and many teams faced difficulty as their vehicles rolled even after the driver applied either of the brakes.  Another example – the driver had to get out of the vehicle in 10 seconds – drivers in the Prototype category felt the heat in this test. After the cars are scrutinised and every other parameter is checked, the car is allowed to go on track for testing and teams can fine tune their cars, if necessary. All cars were fitted with GPS sensors.

The Eco Marathon

Teams were given five attempts at the MMRT in Chennai. A part of the MMRT was used for the test runs and each lap was 1km in length. They had to complete four laps in 19 minutes. Fuel was filled in a 250ml glass beaker which was used as the fuel tank. After each run, the fuel consumed would be calculated by the engineers from Shell  and the fuel consumption would be extrapolated in kmpl. The best of five attempts was taken into consideration. In the EV class, the km/kWh is calculated. After each run, the tech team from Shell checks the energy consumed with their joule meter devices and calculate the km/kWh of the vehicle. The EV that consumed least energy and went the maximum distance was declared as winner.

The CSR initiative by Shell hopes to address the energy problems faced by the world and by actively involving students, the company is doing a good job to make them industry ready and provide a platform to showcase their potential.