IN a fourth consecutive win at the annual Shell Eco-marathon Asia competition, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Eco Sprint Team clinched the champion title in the electric mobility category in Singapore this year.
The team — competing in the prototype vehicle category using hydrogen fuel cells — went straight to work after its win at the 2016 edition of the competition in Manila in the Philippines that saw its vehicle clocked a record mileage of 476km/m3.
Team leader Amirah Athirah Rohazam, 25, said: “There was no time to waste as the contest challenges students to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car.”
The third-year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Electrical Engineering student knew the mammoth task that laid ahead after the 2016 team completed its task and handed the mantle over to the 2017 team last August. The challenge involves not only building the car from scratch, but also coming up with the most practical as well as attractive design and finding the sponsors to fund the project.
Last year, Amirah Athirah played a supporting role in writing the proposal for the project and seeking sponsorship. For 2017, she was selected as leader by previous heads to helm the UiTM Eco Sprint Team.
“The project comprised two components — the technical and non-technical. As the head, I acted as the liaison between the team, UiTM management and sponsors, and made sure we met deadlines for both the technical and non-technical components,” said Amirah Athirah.
In terms of the technical aspects, the team was lucky to have former Eco Sprint Team members as coaches and mentors. The current team — as in previous — consisted of electrical and mechanical engineering, and art and design undergraduates.
Amirah Athirah added that she is fortunate to have the support and encouragement of her parents who are engineers.
For Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2017, the team looked at pushing the distance barrier further.
“We managed to reduce some 6kg of the weight of the car by using composite material. We created more space for the driver by changing the steering mechanism.”
Modifications were made in the use of monocoque instead of aluminium chassis, and the use X-axis rotation hexagon push rod instead of Y-axis rotation cylinder push rod for steering, among others.
On the electrical aspect, the Arduino-based data logger replaced the previous year’s Eagle Tree v4 in circuit, enabling a better statistical analysis of the vehicle system.
“This time, we completed our car on time and did test runs a week before we went to Singapore. This allowed us to improve the results.”
On what the team learnt through its participation in Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2017, Amirah Athirah said: “We need to improve the mechanical infusion system by minimising the use of resin. For the next project, we want to reduce the size of the car to make the body fully covered.
“We will suggest to the Engineering Faculty and UiTM Shah Alam student affairs department to find a workplace for UiTM Eco-Sprint Team because it now shares a space with other clubs.”
But the responsibility for managing the 2018 team will be on the shoulders of third-year electrical engineering student and current team member Afif Nor Norazman, 23.
As for Amirah Athirah, she is glad that she had been a part of the project for two sessions running.
“Winning the Shell Eco-marathon Asia competition for the fourth consecutive time is amazing and we thank the people who have been supporting our team since the beginning of our journey.”
Joining Shell Eco-marathon Asia was an enriching experience as it gave her hands-on engineering experience as well as management skills.
“There is a concurrent need to produce more energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions. Not only will we require more energy but also cleaner and low-carbon energy. We, the youths — through competitions such as the Shell Eco-marathon — have the chance to drive the change to meet rising energy demand by tapping into the power of innovation in the most socially, environmentally and economically responsible way.”
The Shell Eco-marathon Asia competition is held annually by Shell Corporation Ltd. The aim is to achieve the most mileage with the least amount of fuel consumption. Over several days, teams make as many attempts as possible to travel the furthest on the equivalent of one litre of fuel. Cars drive a fixed number of laps around a circuit at a set speed. Organisers calculate their energy efficiency and name a winner in each class and for each energy source.
This year was the eighth year the contest has been running in Asia, and this time it was held at Changi Exhibition Centre, Singapore. The competition is split into two categories. The Prototype category focuses on maximum efficiency while the Urban Concept category emphasises practical designs.