All about the tech

Today the 127 teams now onsite – marking the best Shell Eco-marathon Asia turnout ever - must begin to run the gauntlet of technical inspection. Before they are allowed on the track to compete, they must move through seven separate stations with many as 15 exacting tests, as dozens of visitors look on.

All aspects of cars are given a “pass” or “fail”, from a maximum turning radius of 8 m for Prototypes or 6 m for UrbanConcept cars – crucial for getting around corners and overtaking rivals – to visibility through the windscreen. One fail means a return to the paddock to make crucial changes, then re-joining the queue to try again.

“The biggest challenge for teams are the seatbelts and brakes because we’re so focused on safety and protecting the driver,” said Technical team member Adrian Juergens.

Safety harnesses must be fixed in five places and hold at least 1.5 times the weight of the driver. Two braking systems – one at the front, one at the rear – must each be able to hold the car steady on the test station ramp.

First into the technical inspection is team Eco-Voyager from the University of Malaya with their battery electric Prototype car “Evora”, powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Last year they left the competition when part of the car fell off on-track.

Lying patiently inside the canoe-shaped, enclosed car is driver and mechanical engineering student Nadia Ahmad Hassan. Evora fails the seatbelt test because the buckle is wrongly attached. Only a minor change is needed, like most here today.

So far nobody has passed technical inspection.

The first UrbanConcept car into technical inspection is Symmetry 3.0 from local team TIP Mileage Proto of the Technological Institute of the Philippines. Engineering student Elvin Paul Barrameda explained that the team cut out and replaced sections of the car body to create wheel arches at the rear to satisfy a new rule this year. Symmetry 3.0 also failed on its seatbelt test, which had to be re-attached below shoulder height.

Good design needs time

Ilmi Wahab, team lead of the NTU Diesel Car Racing Team from Singapore describes the team’s futuristic-looking car, which contains 3D printed parts, as a cross between a sports car and a golf cart.

“I think we stand a good chance of winning the design award,” he said. “We’d rather be slow and steady as we get the car ready. We don’t want to keep going back and forth to the inspection stations.”

“The designs are more imaginative and professional-looking compared to previous years,” said Shell Eco-marathon Director Norman Koch.

In search of foam

Also yet to undergo inspection is Team Abhijatrik from Ahsanullah University of Science & Technology in Bangladesh – a new country joining this year. They have just a wooden board for their UrbanConcept car’s seat and no suspension.

Team leader and driver KM Hasan Imam Shuvo would have absorbed all the vibrations from the track, but was more concerned about making the fibreglass and mild steel car too heavy. For his own wellbeing, he was told to wrap the board in foam. “We can fix this. No problem,” he said.

Off the track

While the students were queuing up for the technical inspections for their cars, visitors enjoyed exhibits and games, and experts and business leaders gathered in the nearby Manila Hotel for the Powering Progress Together forum. This year’s forum focused on how cities can become more resilient in the face of rapid growth and resource strains – a major concern in Asia.

The event featured interactive presentations, interviews and extensive panel discussions with speakers ranging from British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, Shell’s country chairman for the Philippines, Edgar Chua, to Ms Saya Kitasei from international environmental advisory firm Xyntéo.