Shell Eco-marathon is a unique global programme, for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students to design and build ultra-energy-efficient cars, and then take them out on the track in competition. Around the world, the programme inspires thousands of students to work collaboratively in their university teams to put their theories of energy-efficiency to the test, using cutting-edge technology, critical thinking, and innovative ideas.
This year, engineering students from Bengaluru are set to promote the government’s mission of all electric cars in India by 2030. These students have developed electric vehicles for Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) 2019 to showcase their passion about automobiles, keeping in mind the overall sustainability of the environment. Engineering students from RV college of engineering and Sir M Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology are ready to represent India in the global arena at the Shell Eco-marathon 2019 to be held in Malaysia from April 29 to May 2. Shell Eco-marathon is one of the world’s leading energy efficiency competitions.
Team Inferno, the 15-member team is participating in the battery electric prototype category and has been a part of the Shell Eco-marathon since 2011. They have been ranked at no. 9 in SEM Asia 2019 after touching an average of 240 kmpl and their first electric car was ranked at no. 3 at Make The Future India in 2018. This year the team went through a transition and changed from internal combustion to electric vehicle, that uses a brushless DC motor driven using indigenous motor controller and a Li-ion battery pack coupled with a battery management system. The car’s design has been derived from tear drop which makes the car stand out in terms of pure looks along with some top-level aerodynamics.
Team Garuda, the 16-member team is participating in the battery electric urban-concept category with “Mjolnir” (lightning), their newest model inspired from last year’s “Vajra 2.0” (thunderbolt), both reflecting the participants’ ambition to be as fast as lightning and reach the top. With a decade of experience garnered by their alumni, the group has worked extensively to indigenously design and construct systems that are 60%-70% less in weight compared to their previous prototype. This year, these students have also integrated a motor controller with PID system using traditional machinery to monitor the accuracy between input and output of energy in the vehicle and achieve an impressive mileage of around 50 km/kWhr which seems virtually impossible with traditional machining.
Students from the two teams spoke to TNM about the competition and how it has evolved over the years, among other things.
Here are excerpts.
Over the years, have the number of participating teams increased?
Team Inferno: When we participated in 2004, there were hardly 2-3 teams from India. It has grown to around 15 teams now. So, there’s a drastic increase in the number of participants.
So, how do the Indian teams compare with the other teams in terms of the innovation and type of vehicles being developed?
Team Inferno: India is creating innovative vehicles but when it comes to advancement in the technologies used, the other countries are ahead of us. This is because there are specialised universities which are dedicating their R&D to the Shell Eco-marathon which we don’t have. We just do it as a co-curricular activity.
Team Garuda: Basically, there is a clear-cut difference when you compare teams from Asia and Europe. Numbers tell the difference. In Asia, if a battery-electric vehicle is clocking 130 km/kilowatt hour, in Europe, the same category has a top mileage of 172 km/kilowatt hour. And every single year, this gap is increasing.
What do you think needs to change so that we can come at par with those teams?
Team Inferno: The government should take much more interest in events like this and they should start implementing these ideas for commercial vehicles too. Shell has recently conducted the challenger event in India which elicited a huge response from all over the country. There were around 40-42 teams that came from India and around 20 teams qualified for the final.
What is the biggest challenge in creating energy-efficient cars?
Team Inferno: When we are building these cars, we need to compromise somewhere because of our budget. We will be having different sub-systems in the car, and every sub-system is allocated a specific amount of money. So, if we go for the best in one aspect, the other aspect suffers and has to be compromised. Basically, funds and resources are the problem areas.
What about the investment for designing these cars?
Team Garuda: We approach industries who recognise our work and provide funding. Also, our college supports us. They give us motivation and professional knowledge. We get some amount of money from our college, about 40-50% and rest we approach some of the companies to whom we present our ideas and then they come forward.
How is a competition like Shell Eco-marathon beneficial?
Team Garuda: In 2017 event, we had gasoline category. We 3D-printed air intake for that. So when we took this to Singapore, we were much appreciated by the Shell Eco-marathon organisers. These kind of events help us to apply our theoretical knowledge practically.
What kind of changes do you want colleges to implement?
Team Inferno: Various workshops should be conducted. While working throughout the SEM, we got to know how to use different types of mechanical tools which are not present in the syllabus. And until we do it ourselves, we won’t know how that technology works. So, colleges should stress more on the practical aspect than on the theory.
What are you hoping to achieve at this competition?
Sathwik Nag CV, Team Manager, Team Inferno said, “With the ever-growing pollution in our country, we as students have always wanted to contribute towards an efficient solution to reduce pollution by being part of the electric revolution. Our prototype has been designed keeping a very close idea of what goes on in the minds of the average Indian when she/he is told about electric vehicles or renewable energy. Shell Eco-marathon has given us the huge honour to represent not just the team but our country on a global platform. Seeing the tricolour among the ranks instills immense pride in every team member that makes us want to give out that extra bit of effort to see it at the top.”
Bharat V, Team Manager, Project Garuda said, “We have always been very passionate about engineering, our passion helps us to conceptualise and our practical knowledge helps us bring the concept to reality. Shell Eco-marathon has been instrumental in enabling us to continue our endeavours towards innovation with a focus on sustainability. The platform has encouraged our vision and given us a global view of international advancements in the sector. With “Mjolnir”, we feel proud to represent our vision and what we stand for as a team. We hope that this reminds everyone to look up and do something new and inspiring.”