When is a race not a race?

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MIKE POTENCIANO

MIKE POTENCIANO

When is a race, not a race? One of the many answers is when we try to get the best fuel efficiency in an Eco Run.

Last weekend, we were fortunate to attend the Third Shell Eco Marathon (SEM) Asia in Rizal Park, Manila. This run highlighted fuel efficiency to the max. The SEM is a showcase of what students can do when they put their minds into getting the most fuel efficient engine and chassis combination possible. This contest might even be harder than an actual race because they had to make their own vehicles and compete with other international drivers as well.

The highly technical event started in 1939 in the United States between Shell scientists as to who could get the most number of miles to the gallon. The SEM later evolved to its present format in 1985 in France and later grew to two more continents- the Americas in 2007 and Asia in 2013.

SEM Asia Project Manager Lyndon Lumain told us that more than 100 students from 17 countries competed in this year’s event. The two major vehicle categories were the Prototype, which was for cars that were more streamlined in shape and had a laid down sitting position, and the Urban, for those that resembled road-going cars and had an upright driver’s seat. There were different power units and were classified according to their energy source: gasoline; diesel; alternative gasoline (ethanol 100); alternative diesel (Shell’s Gas-to-Liquid or Fatty Acid Methyl Ester); and battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell.


There were tough hurdles that students from Asia, Middle East and Africa had to overcome before they could even compete. More than 250 teams had applied for the event but only 118 made it to Luneta, mostly from car construction delays. However, the teams’ problems didn’t end there.

A total of 118 student teams from 17 countries across Asia participated in this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A total of 118 student teams from 17 countries across Asia participated in this year’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The cars had to pass a 100-point, technical inspection for safety including dynamic tests before the teams could even practice. Sad to say, 18 teams failed this part and didn’t even make it to the track. If you count the technological nightmares that the teams had to do – design and create a vehicle from ground up, according to the rules and get the driver to be the best out there mileage-wise – then you could see that just running in the event is already an achievement in itself!

Besides the team problems, the organizers also had their hands full in making sure that this year’s Eco Marathon was safe, convenient and memorable for all, including the spectators. They pulled out all the stops by building huge, air conditioned pavilions for the teams, spectators’ fan zone and an energy showcase to highlight past, present and future energy sources from Shell. The City of Manila and the Department of Tourism graciously hosted this event and closed off the Rizal Park. There were bridgeways and a huge, open playground for the young fans. The tracks’ tall fences, numerous billboards/streamers and photo booths with SEM cars added a great atmosphere to the event.

The Philippine National Police and local officials were in full force to make sure the participants and 30,000 spectators were secure and could watch unimpeded. The police were so good that traffic in and out of the location was quite moderate considering the road closures. There was even no criminal activity that happened during the event, according to Lumain after the event.

Shell even made sure the food in the different hotels was according to the participants’ taste and traditions. Just keeping the participants and organizers hydrated during the whole four-day event was managed properly.

There were 28 Philippine Teams from De La Salle University, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Ateneo de Davao, Mapua Institute of Technology, Don Bosco Technical College-Mandaluyong, Technology Institute of the Philippines-Quezon City and Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University Institute of Technology, University of San Carlos, Malayan Colleges Laguna, New Era University, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, City of Bogo Science and Arts Academy, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila, Central Colleges of the Philippines, Cebu Institute of Technology-University, University of Mindanao, and University of the East.

The best part of the event was four of our local teams took top three places in their respective classes! De La Salle University (DLSU) took first place in the Urban Battery Electric Class and led the Philippine contingent. The team was so ecstatic that they were literally jumping for joy in the paddocks. Another DLSU team took second in the Urban Gasoline class posting 159 kilometers per liter (kpl) with a carbureted engine. Indonesia’s Sadewa team set a new record in the same class and took first place, posting 275 kpl with a fuel-injected engine.

In the Prototype Category, Mapua took second place with the popular Aguila Team at 335 kpl but Indonesia’s Nakoela Team posted a whopping 792 kpl record! Team Lahutay of the University of San Carlos squeezed into third in the Diesel class with 106 kpl. It was still a far cry though from class winner, Japan’s Clean Diesel Team with 1,424 kpl and second placer of China’s Zeal Eco Power with 798 kpl.

The best mileage for SEM was set by Thailand’s How Much Ethanol Team of the Panjavidhya Technological College at 2,040 kpl for the Prototype Ethanol class! They were the 2014 SEM champion and they attributed their new record with a well-engineered, variable valve timing technology applied to their engine. That will be like going to Bangkok, Thailand from Manila with one liter of ethanol! Wow!

We asked Shell Corporate Affairs Manager Ramon Del Rosario why Shell would make an event that seemed to be counterproductive to selling more fuel. Mon said that it is all about conserving our limited fuel resources for the growing population and limiting the pollution emitted to Mother Earth. Amen!

Now this is the race that is really worth doing and hope to see a lot more fuel efficient races out there in the future. Godspeed to all!

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