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Team Inferno prepare to unveil their car at a Shell event in Bangalore, December 2013

Team Inferno prepare to unveil their car at a Shell event in Bangalore, December 2013

Habib Suryo lives in Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city. At night he leaves his windows open in the hope of a cool breeze to help him get some much-needed sleep. Along with fellow students, he has been pouring his energy into building an ultra-energy-efficient car to compete in Shell Eco-marathon Asia.

“I feel the city is getting hotter from the growing number of cars and traffic pollution,” says Habib. “Our design ideas could one day help.”

Team Rakata from the Institut Teknologi Bandung has shaped its unique car body like a teardrop, with smooth lines to minimise drag and so limit fuel consumption. The students also opted to power their vehicle on ethanol, even though it is not locally produced.

“We wanted to test an alternative to petrol or diesel,” says Habib. “I hope eventually to see most cars running on cleaner fuels.”

Another city, another challenge

Nearly 4,000 km (nearly 2,500 miles) away Avinash Hedge lives in Bangalore, India, a swelling city. Already home to around 4 million residents, the city’s traffic is growing at 7% to 10% a year, according to the Bangalore City Traffic Police, with little space for existing roads to expand.

“Many of our roads are so jammed that no-one can drive fast,” says Avinash. “So it makes sense to drive efficient vehicles that don’t need high top speeds.”

His team, Inferno, from Sir M. Visvesvaraya Institute of Technology has been working on a petrol-fuelled Prototype vehicle with a maximum speed of around 50 km/h. The students designed a special outer body made from uses polymer fibre, a strong but lightweight material. This helps keep the car’s weight to just 40 kg, a fraction of many family cars. The lighter the car, the less fuel it will burn.

While both students have high hopes for the long-term future, their immediate challenge will be taking on the urban circuit at Luneta Park in Manila, the Philippines, February 6-9.

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