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Day 3: Morning

Three students are huddled on the floor around tools and tyres. Next to them a pencil-shaped car, just large enough for a slim driver to squeeze in, lies on a worktable. Its edges curve like the bow of a ship. Unlike the fibreglass bodies of cars that roll past, it is made entirely from wood.

“We wanted to challenge our thinking,” says team manager Tinagaran Puvanasan from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. “It’s biodegradable when you compare it to fibreglass.”

The art of sustainability

The team used mahogany and laminated plywood, sealing thin strips tightly together with minute precision. Wood is relatively heavy so risks reducing the car’s efficiency. Yesterday the students achieved a distance of 338km/l equivalent in their first attempt.

“Now we are checking the wheel bearings,” says team member Sherah Tissera. They have also packed in tin foil around the engine to keep the diesel that powers their car from burning off.

Taking a tumble

Drivers have a maximum time limit of 24 minutes for Urban Concept and 29 minutes for Prototpye. They must concentrate every second behind the wheel. Dust flew on the track yesterday when the Prototype car from Qatar University rolled over. Marshals stepped in and lifted the car out safely.

“Our driver is fine,” says team member Jassim Khalid. “And already back on track!”

The car body is a mix of foam, for support, and lightweight carbon fibre. The students chose to power it on gas-to-liquids (GTL).

“Natural gas is abundant and accessible in Qatar,” says Jassim. “And we think it’s more environmentally friendly than petrol.”

Design comes first in this wooden car from Nanyang Technological University

Design comes first in this wooden car from Nanyang Technological University

Lean and clean

Students have 1.5 days left and anything could happen. Favourites team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from Thailand struggled to start the engine of their ethanol-fuelled Prototype car yesterday. This morning their vehicle recorded 958 km/l equivalent. This is nearly three times below their winning target, but team advisor Narongdech Keeratipranon is optimistic.

“We have cleaned out our engine,” he says. “I’m confident we can make it.”

Stay tuned to find out!

SEM Asia 2014 driver