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Shell Eco-marathon Manila fuels a debate on Fuel Efficiency

Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2014 proved to be not only a celebration of fuel efficiency but also fertile ground for debate about the road transport industry.

When Shell Eco-marathon took to the streets of Manila, more than 1,000 students from across Asia took the opportunity to showcase their own vehicles of tomorrow. The event, held in February, also united energy leaders in a debate about the future of mobility, providing the perfect backdrop for Shell experts to discuss the road transport industry’s hottest topics with the region’s most influential media.

In the words of Wolfgang Warnecke: “The way the world uses energy for transport is changing.” And as Shell Chief Scientist for Mobility, he should know. Rapid population expansion, globalisation and urbanisation mean that there are more consumer and commercial vehicles using more fuel in more cities than ever before. Yet at a time when oil and gas supplies are becoming more sought after, they are also getting harder to find and more difficult to produce.

Nowhere are these changes being felt more deeply than in the road transport industry, where fuel can account for up to 30% of operating costs. Add to that the pressure of stricter emissions legislation and the growing need to prove a transport fleet’s ‘green’ credentials during tenders, and it’s easy to see why cost-efficiencies and environmental responsibilities topped the agenda during the Shell Eco-marathon discussion.

Yet according to Warnecke, transport fleet operators should be mindful of looking for one silver bullet solution. “Our experience and scenario planning tell us there is no single answer,” he confirms. “Instead, businesses should be considering a range of solutions, including alternative energy sources, better fuel management and improved protection against fuel related fraud and theft.”

It is a view shared across the road transport industry, with many experts urging businesses to start planning now for alternatives like biofuels, hydrogen, electricity and LNG. For Regional Sales Manager Chee Hoe Leong, however, better use of present-day fuel resources is an equally effective way for operators to protect the future of their business.

“Yes, renewables are going to be vital and people should already be thinking about how they can use them,” he says. “But even in 2050, we still expect around 70% of the world’s energy needs to be met by fossil fuels. Therefore, using existing resources more efficiently remains a great means of cutting costs and meeting environmental objectives – for now and the foreseeable future.”

For many vehicle operators, smarter fuel technologies will be key to achieving greater efficiency, including economy products like Shell FuelSave that has been designed to offer more miles for less fuel, especially when combined with the latest generation of high performance motor oils.

Yet, even so, the solution does not begin and end in the tank.

“Driver behaviour is also crucial,” Leong warns. “Educating employees about smarter habits, such as using higher gears, avoiding excess idling and not overloading the vehicle, can significantly reduce how much fuel they use. And that will help fleets limit their carbon footprint and their costs.”

At the same time, fraud specialist Kee Wa Lim points out that fuel cards and their online management systems can be highly valuable when it comes to managing expenditure, particularly as a first line of defence against fraudulent use of cards.

“Fraud is an issue for many fleet managers and one that costs the industry millions of dollars a year,” he explains. “Using a single, secure fuel card together with an effective online management system, like Shell Card Online, helps operators keep a close eye on transactions, get online alerts when suspicious activity occurs and respond quickly to an issue before it impacts their bottom line.”

But what does all this mean for the road transport industry?

Among the Shell experts and media in attendance in Manila, there was unanimous agreement that the challenges for vehicle operators will keep growing. From developing a fuels strategy that meets strict cost and environmental targets to improving driver behaviour and combating fraud, the job of fleet managers is ever more complex.

In short, the industry, and indeed the world, is changing. It is changing today; it will change again tomorrow. And it is down to companies like Shell to provide a range of solutions to match – now and in the years ahead.

The history of Shell Eco-marathon

The origins of Shell Eco-marathon go back to 1939 and lie in a friendly wager between scientists in a Shell research laboratory in the United States who wanted to see who could get the most miles per gallon from their vehicle. The winner of that contest barely achieved 50 mpg (21 km/l). Competitions took place informally over the years before a more organised event was put together and launched in France in 1985, where 25 teams from four countries took part. These days the popularity of the competition is such that teams have to be capped at 200.

Over the years, the competition has grown into a truly global event attracting thousands of students from all over the world. In 2007, the first Shell Eco-marathon Americas took place at the California Speedway in Fontana, California, with 20 participating teams. In March 2010, Shell Eco-marathon Americas was held for the first time on the streets of downtown Houston, Texas. 2010 was also the first edition of Shell Eco-marathon Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2012, the European leg of the competition also moved to a street circuit at the Ahoy in Rotterdam.

This is the first year Shell Eco-marathon Asia has taken place on the streets of Luneta Park in Manila. Like Houston and Rotterdam, this new urban setting is designed to test the boundaries of fuel efficiency in a real world environment.

“A street circuit certainly presents more difficulty as vehicles tend to consume more energy while navigating urban roads. The fact that teams are still making marked improvements on their scores and clocking new personal bests is extremely impressive,” says Norman Koch, Shell Eco-marathon Technical Director.

Fuel efficiency then and now

The first event was won by R.J. Greenshields with a run of 49.73 mpg or 4.73 l/100 km.

In 1946, Greenshields ran a modified Studebaker to 149.95 mpg or 1.57l/100km.

In 1968, a Fiat 600 owned by J.M. Jones, R.C. Trokey and D.C. Carlson reached 244.35 mpg or 0.963 l/100 km and in 1973 an Opel driven by B.E. Visser achieved 0.625 l/100 km.

In 2011, La Joliverie Projet Microjoule, France, achieved 3688 km/l equivalent with their internal combustion vehicle. This equals driving from Rotterdam to Moscow on a single litre of fuel.

The team once again came out on top in the Prototype petrol category achieving 2,980.3 km/l equivalent, enough to drive from Rotterdam to Athens on a single litre of fuel.

In 2013, a team of students from Quebec’s Université Laval, participating in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, travelled a mind-boggling 3,587 miles on a single gallon of gasoline – a figure that would get them from Houston to Anchorage in Alaska with some miles to spare.

At this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia, team How Much Ethanol from Panjavidhya Technological College in Thailand drove 2,730km on a litre of ethanol – the highest mileage recorded at this year’s competition and the equivalent distance from Manila to Jakarta.

Shell Eco-marathon Americas takes place from 25-27 April

Shell Eco-marathon Europe takes place from 15-18 May