Small Talk: Shell Eco Marathon, 2012

A Shell sponsored event, Shell Eco Marathon is all about designing a better, fuel-efficient car. The competition is aimed at students and is held worldwide. Students from PNEC participated in the Urban Concept and Prototype categories of the event. NUST Science Blog caught up with Raffay Bin Hussnain Hashmi, Manager Team Ballista to know more about his experience.

NUST Science Blog: Tell us a bit about Shell Eco Marathon?

Raffay Bin Hussnain: Shell Eco Marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build, and test ultra-energy-efficient vehicles. With annual events first in the Americas, then Europe and Asia, the winners are teams that go furthest using least amount of energy. The events spark debate about the future of mobility and inspire young engineers to push boundaries of fuel efficiency.

NSB: What are the requirements of Shell that the vehicles need to fulfill?

RBH: Well, teams are provided with a set of rules and regulations and they have to work within some constraints, but the basic motive of this event is to increase fuel efficiency of vehicle for better mobility. Shell provides a platform to all young engineers to think and innovate, and put ideas to reality.

NSB: What new concepts did you introduce in your vehicles for the event to make them better suited?

RBH: We actually started our work before the discovery of Agha Waqar; otherwise we could have changed the laws of energy 😉 lol.

Since we lacked technical facilities within our resources, but we managed to introduce some new concepts that include honey comb chassis, glass fiber body, modified engine, weight and drag reduction, driver’s comfort and safety.

NSB: Can you please tell us more about the aerodynamic design of the cars?

RBH: Well, in case of Ballista, the basic concept of prototype car was futuristic design with ultra-fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic shape of body plays an important role to reduce drag reduction and consequently increases mileage of vehicle. Within the dimensions provided in the rule book, prototype car design was to have minimum drag losses. In case of Bolt, which doesn’t allow too much liberty in designing the body, but within the dimensions, best aerodynamic design was made to increase fuel efficiency of the car.

NSB: What’s the importance of glass fiber body?

RBH: Honestly telling you, why we used glass fiber body is just because of low budget, though it is light weight and equally pays off in increasing fuel efficiency. Carbon fiber is much better and light weight than fiber glass. Trust me, if companies could donate us earlier than the event, we would have definitely made a car with carbon fiber body.

NSB: What do you think is the most important feature of Bolt, and how well does it perform?

RBH: Apart from red-candy looking car, Bolt successfully recorded a mileage of 66 km in 1 liter. You might be laughing on how a car can move on road consuming mush less amount of fuel. But Bolt can do it. This is the most important feature of Bolt that got it a 10th place in the Event.

NSB: What efforts did you put in to make the cars environmentally friendly?

RBH: Hmm… Obviously, the basic motive of manufacturing these cars was to create awareness of go-green initiative. These eco-friendly vehicles were designed keeping in view the futuristic needs of fuel efficiency.

NSB: What challenges did you face in designing your cars?

RBH: Ahh, I am not allowed to write a long essay, otherwise I would have done that. Looking back a year, when everything was on paper, I could hardly imagine two cars running in front of me. Designing, manufacturing, sponsorship, marketing, logistics, and a lot more, from spending days and nights in labs, to presentations in companies; these were not easy things to do at this level where we could hardly find any money in our pockets. A dream to continue the legacy with no money wasn’t giving us a destined look. But, Allah ka naam lia and we started our work.

NSB: How was your experience of the event?

RBH: Entering the Sepang Circuit, seeing Pakistani flag rising with other countries’ flags; running vehicles on Sepang international track; eyes filled with tears on completing successful track run; holding our country’s flag in front of whole world… I mean, seriously, I don’t have words to describe that feeling. The experience we got is simply unexplainable. And, well, yeah, apart from learning experiences and lifetime achievements, we all had great fun over there. Party Scene!!!

NSB: How was the support from NUST community and administration?

RBH: Hmm, difficult question to answer on this forum but I would highlight some of the issues which certainly need to be addressed. Well, NUST community, and Specially, I would like to thank NUST Science Society for sharing our activities on website, blogs and Facebook.  We also got Second position in Communication award (as an off-track award). NSS played a vital role in our marketing and spreading awareness among students. But, when it comes to NUST administration, I certainly don’t have good remarks.

Several calls were made from PNEC to NUST for sponsoring team PNEC but the response was zero, and every time the answer was same that “No money would be given to EME or PNEC for SEM”. In 2011, we couldn’t participate in the event due to lack of funds to transport the vehicle. Just imagine the feelings: you build a car, prepare to compete in an international event to represent your country and you end up putting the car in scratch because you can’t participate.  This year, we again knocked doors of NUST, but the answer remained the same. We didn’t lose heart and spent our days and nights in finding sponsorships. We even had to go to a company daily to give our manufacturing report, and we did that. And, I can proudly say that we made the vehicles and participated in the event without single support from NUST. Toyota Indus motors, DHL Global Forwarding Pakistan, Telenor Djuice, HEC Stem Career Program, Shan Foods were the honor sponsors for both teams of PNEC.

I would like to mention the support from PNEC administration, as all manufacturing cost was provided by our own college. Even though we had difficulties in doing technical work inside our labs, we were allowed to move the vehicles outside college whenever needed.

– Pictures by Raffay Bin Hussnain Hashmi

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