Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

SEPANG, MALAYSIA — It was a gallant stand, but the 11-member contingent from the Philippines ultimately fell short of their goal to gain podium places at the 10th Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) Asia.

SEM is “a unique global program for science, technology, engineering, and math students to design and build ultra-energy-efficient cars, and then take them out on the track in competition,” according to the SEM website.

“We’re trying to teach the future scientific and engineering leaders to think about what drives us — — and that is energy,” explained SEM General Manager Norman Koch in response to a question from BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the event. “With energy, we need to be more efficient, to create more (of it) with less CO2. The only way to do that is to become more efficient, and that’s what the Shell Eco-marathon is all about. Whichever energy you use — hydrogen, battery electric, or gasoline — you want to optimize the usage; to be as efficient as you can be.”

The Asian edition of the multi-territory competition was held from April 29 to May 2 at the Sepang International Circuit — marking a return to the former F1 racing track which had hosted the very first Asian staging of the competition back in 2010.

“It’s an educational program, a competition for students from all over the world to come up with ideas that enable energy-efficient mobility whichever energy you use,” continued Mr. Koch, a graduate of the University of Technology Dresden in Germany, and a Masters degree holder in Electrical and Precision Engineering.

Over 100 student teams from some 18 countries in the Asia Pacific and Middle East participated, with the Philippines fielding the following teams: DLSU-D Stallions Hiraya (De La Salle University-Dasmariñas), DLSU Eco Car Team-Battery Electric (De La Salle University), DLSU Eco Team-ICE (De La Salle University), NU Prime Sprinter (National University), PLM Agsikapin (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila), PUP-Hygears (Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila), ATLAS Valor (University of Perpetual Help System-Dalta), UST Eco-Tigers I (University of Santo Tomas), Dagisik UP (University of the Philippines-Diliman), Alamat (University of the Philippines-Diliman), and Team UMindanao Wildcats (University of Mindanao).

Two key competitions were held: the Mileage Challenge (won by teams whose cars travel the longest on the least amount of fuel), and the qualifier for the Drivers’ World Championship, “a race to see who crosses the finish line first without running out of their limited allocation of energy.” Leading groups also qualified for the 2019 Drivers’ World Championship to be held in London this July.

University or high school students competed in two main categories: Prototype (featuring more futuristic vehicles) and UrbanConcept (bearing a practical form and more similar to contemporary cars). The vehicles were required to pass a battery of thorough technical inspections — 11 in total — before being allowed on-track testing (and they must run a minimum of 30 minutes); and may be powered by an internal combustion engine (using gasoline diesel, or ethanol), a battery, or hydrogen fuel cell.

Teams from Indonesia locked out the podium places in the UrbanConcept-internal combustion engine (ICE) category. Taking first place was ITS Team Sapuangin of Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (395 km/l), followed by Garuda UNY ECO Team of Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta (383 km/l), and Sadewa of Universitas Indonesia (348 km/l). Among battery electrics, Vietman emerged victorious via Lac Hong University’s LH-EST Team (170 km/kWh), followed by Indonesia’s Nogogeni ITS Team 1 of Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (169 km/kWh), and Bumi Siliwangi Team 4 of Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (165 km/kWh). The Nanyang E Drive of Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) (94 km/m3), ITS Team 5 of Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (Indonesia) (90 km/m3), and UiTM Eco-Planet Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam (Malaysia) (45 km/m3) took the trophies among hydrogen fuel cell-powered entries.

In the Prototype (ICE) category, the winners were Thailand’s RMUTP Racing of Rajamangala University of Technology Phra Nakhon (registering a figure of 1,547 km/liter), China’s Zeal Eco-Power Proto of Tongji University (966 km/l), and Indonesia’s Rakata of Institut Teknologi Bandung (926 km/l). Two entries from Singapore showed the way in hydrogen: TP Eco Flash of Temasek Polytechnic (403 km/l), and The Black Order of Ngee Ann Polytechnic (122 km/l). Among battery electrics, China’s HuaQi-EV Guangzhou College of South China University of Technology (502 km/kWh), India’s Averera of Indian Institute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University (465 km/kWh), and Indonesia’s Semar Proto UGM of Universitas Gadjah Mada (387km/kWh) led the way.

“The role of Shell in SEM is to be a convener of ideas and innovation. We want to invite and encourage… give (students) a purpose to try out their ideas and put them down on the track and see how they compete with ideas from other universities,” explained Mr. Koch. “We see it as an investment in the bright young minds of the future who will be the designer of the car that you and I will be driving in 10 or 20 years.”

Shell isn’t playing any favorites in terms of the future energy sources readily used and available to mankind. “The future of mobility will be a mosaic of energy. All the energy that we have here — hydrogen, electric, and gasoline — have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s very likely that the mobility of the future will be fueled by a mix of energy sources,” stressed the SEM lead. “It’s about driving the efficiency of each energy to the maximum.”

Aside from bragging rights, category team winners get US$3,000 for their schools. An additional four off-track awards (also receiving US$3,000 each) go for those who exhibit excellence in areas from “communication to vehicle deign,” and to participants with the “greatest team spirit and perseverance in the face of adversity.” The total kitty amounts to US$50,000.