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Trials, tears and triumph in Sepang.

THE 10th Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 'Make the Future Live' came to a close in Sepang, Malaysia, on May 2, 2019, after three successive days of competition among teams from the Philippines, Thailand, China and Singapore, who set out to prove who could produce the best energy efficiency within their respective prototype categories or, put simply, to determine whose car can go the farthest using the least amount of energy.

As a backgrounder, the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia (Sema) is one of the world's longest-running student mileage competitions that challenge teams to design, build and test ultra-energy efficient vehicles.

Sema's Asian edition returned to the venue where it was first held-Malaysia's Sepang F1 Circuit. That event brought together over 100 student teams from 18 countries across the Asia Pacific including the Philippines and the Middle East.

This year, the Philippines fielded 12 teams, 11 cars and their student crews made it to Malaysia, but one team's car arrived in Sepang and its crew didn't. They had to ship the car ahead to Sepang in order to make the deadline while hoping that they would be able to raise more funds for their airfare and hotel accommodations so that they could follow and compete in the event. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and the crew was not able to make it. This was just one of the many sad stories that broke my heart when Filipinas Shell Media Manager Cesar C. Abaricia told me about the travails of students who join the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia every year.

'Yung sasakyan nila dumating pero yung mga bata hindi nakahabol kasi hindi sila nakaraise ng pera para sa plane tickets at hotel nila,' said Abaricia. If only he knew about their problem, Filipinas Shell would have helped them out but it was too late. 'As a result, they didn't make it to the qualifications and technical inspection,' he added.

The student teams competed in two categories-Prototype (futuristic and highly aerodynamic vehicles) and UrbanConcept (vehicles that resemble today's cars) based on their selected energy source: Internal Combustion Engine (ICE): Gasoline, diesel, ethanol (biofuel); hydrogen fuel cell; and battery electric power.

The eleven student teams that arrived in Sepang were: 1) D Stallions Hiraya, DLSU Dasmarinas with UrbanConcept (Diesel), 2) DLSU Eco Car Team with UrbanConcept (Battery Electric), 3) DLSU Eco Team-I. C. E. with UrbanConcept (Gasoline), 4) NU Prime Sprinter, National University with Urban Concept (Battery Electric), 5) PLM Agsikapin, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila with UrbanConcept (Gasoline), 6) PUP-Hygears, Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila with UrbanConcept (Battery Electric), 7) ATLAS Valor, University of Perpetual Help System-Dalta with Prototype (Gasoline), 8) UST Eco-Tigers I, University of Santo Tomas with Prototype (Diesel), 9) Dagisik UP, University of the Philippines Diliman with UrbanConcept (Battery Electric), 10) ALAMAT UP, University of the Philippines Diliman with UrbanConcept (Diesel), and 11) Team UMindanao Wildcats, University of Mindanao with UrbanConcept (Diesel).

According to Shell Eco-Marathon General Manager Norman Koch, more than 50 countries join the events to bring and put ideas together to address the future of mobility and energy transition.

'We are not just teaching these kids technology but we are teaching them life skills, which are three things: 1) teamwork; 2) time; and 3) money,' Koch said.

Vehicles must pass a detailed technical inspection before they are allowed to proceed onto the track for their runs on the 10.3-kilometer Sepang F1 Circuit on the second day. Seventy-one student teams passed the technical inspection and four of them were from the Philippines, namely, University of the Philippines Diliman-Dagisik UP; University of Santo Tomas Eco-Tigers I; De La Salle University, DLSU Eco Car Team-Battery Electric; and University of Mindanao, Team UMindanao Wildcats.

One of the teams asked for permission to sleep in the paddock because they ran out of money for their hotel. 'Magsasara na yung track, bakit nandito pa kayo?' Abaricia asked. 'Puwede po bang matulog dito kasi wala po kaming pang hotel,' asked one of the students. I recalled that the students were given accommodations through the efforts of Filipinas Shell.

'These students are the future generation of entrepreneurs and scientists. It is their national pride to join this challenge whether they win or not. They can show their future employers what they had done,' added Koch.

University of Santo Tomas Eco-Tiger I landed in eighth spot in the Prototype Category with energy source internal combustion engine (ICE). The core team of UST seniors changed the body of their T400D vehicle to carbon fiber for this competition.

The Prototype winner in the Mileage Challenge was RMUTP RACING from Rajamangala University of Technology Phra Nakhon from Thailand. They achieved the equivalent of 1,546.9 km on a liter of ethanol with their Prototype car-the equivalent of driving from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bangkok, Thailand.

'We are very happy to win. We did our best and we used our experience gathered over the three years of competing, but our No. 1 rule is teamwork,' said Peerapon Booncheuy, team manager for RMUTP.

Other winners in the prototype competition included HuaQi-EV from China with a result of 501.6 km/kWh in the Battery Electric category and TP Eco Flash from Singapore with a result of 403.3 km/m3 in the hydrogen category.

The winner of the Drivers' World Championship Qualifier is Nanyang E Drive from Nanyang Technological University from Singapore, who beat other top UrbanConcept cars in a breathtaking race to cross the finish line without running out of their limited allocation of energy.

'We are very happy as the win wasn't expected. It was nerve-wracking as we were a close second for most of the race. Our secret was honestly just very good teamwork-the team, monitoring every aspect of the car, letting me know how much energy to use and where to use it. So it was a very well-coordinated effort and that to me was the key to our success' shared Colin Ioh, team driver for Nanyang E Drive.

The winner of the Internal Combustion Engine category was ITS Team 5 from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember from Indonesia and team LH-EST from Lac Hong University in Vietnam took second and third places, respectively.

The top 3 teams from the Asia qualifier will face off against the best UrbanConcept teams from the Americas and Europe in the Drivers' World Championship to be held at Make the Future Live in London, UK, on July 5, 2019. The ultimate winning team will be awarded with an invitation to visit Scuderia Ferrari's exclusive headquarters in Italy. They will participate in exciting workshops and learn from the best at Ferrari.

'The Drivers' World Championship incorporates both the fuel efficiency of the vehicle with the technique and skills of the driver. This time it is the strategy of handling the vehicles while simultaneously managing fuel efficiency. We saw amazing action and my congratulations goes to all the teams for all their achievements,' said Koch.

Despite not making it to top 3, the Philippine teams felt great pride in their achievement in representing the country in one of the world's longest-running student mileage competitions. They hope to take their learnings from this year and come up stronger and better in next year's Shell Eco-Marathon.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:May 10, 2019
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