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Streets ahead in energy efficiency
Imagine driving from Manila in the Philippines to Tokyo in Japan – around 3,000 km – on a single litre of fuel. Impossible? Not for a team of students from Thailand, now preparing to beat their own record.
Thai students hope their refined car will be even more energy efficient.
Panusit Kampantong, an engineering student from Dhurakij Bundit University spent last December trawling electronic shops in his home city Bangkok. He was determined to find wheel bearings made from carbon fibre. Lighter than the conventional steel parts, these bearings are the latest enhancement to his team’s ultra energy-efficient car.
“It was important to challenge ourselves to come up with ideas for improvement,” says Panusit. “Even though we know we already have a very good vehicle.”
Panusit’s team topped the leader board at Shell Eco-marathon Asia in 2011 and 2012, a competition that challenges students to drive the furthest on the least energy. Last year the team was disappointed when the event was cancelled due to smog in the region. But they have used the extra time to fine tune their car’s design and talk tactics.
Preparing for the unknown
The team’s car has a streamlined design, inspired by a water droplet. They sketched it by hand then refined the measurements using computer modeling. The shape minimises friction, making it an ideal entry for the Prototype class which is all about energy efficiency. But design is only half the story. Out on the circuit, the driver, squeezed into this tiny capsule and lying close to the ground, will need to navigate the car around an unfamiliar circuit. Like other drivers, Satapat Sarakan’s technique involves accelerating for just a few seconds at a time, then cutting the engine to save fuel.
“This technique works well on flat terrain,” says Satapat. “We will have to wait and see what happens on the new circuit!”
Shell Eco-marathon Asia will take place for the first time at Luneta Park, Manila, the Philippines, February 6-9, 2014.
Who's on the team
Lecturer and team advisor Dr. Narongdech Keeratipranon supports his students and steers the team’s direction by setting them specific goals. Students have designed and built the car themselves, but Narongdech is always on-hand to help with challenges.
Panusit Kampantong, team manager, has been involved in designing and developing fuel-efficient cars for seven years. He loves turning vision into reality. Since joining the Shell Eco-marathon team in 2011, Panusit has learned about many new technologies. This year, as head of the electrical and mechanical aspects of the car, Panusit is “the ultimate problem solver”!
Rungphet Suwan has been on the team for five years. He enjoys putting his theoretical knowledge of mechanical engineering into practice as one of the team’s mechanics. Thanks to the competition, he has gained a lot of experience with car engines. The event has also improved his teamwork and he has made new friends.
Satapat Sarakan has been the team driver for two years. He was chosen above all for his light weight! Satapat is now very much part of the team and says: “I like the challenge and innovation in the competition.”