In a scenario where poor air quality, congested roads and ever-rising population are gradually becoming a pain for leading metropolitan cities of the world, Shell’s ‘Make the Future’ initiative debuted in India with Shell Eco-marathon competition, to challenge young engineers to design, build and drive energy-efficient vehicles
The global initiative of Shell Global named 'Make the Future' was organised for the first time in India at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Chennai from December 6-9, 2018. The platform encourages conversation, collaboration and affirmative action given the global energy challenges. The event also featured the Shell Eco-marathon, a global programme that encourages bright student minds to design and build ultra energy-efficient cars to showcase clean energy innovations and provide a glimpse of the future of energy.
India has been part of the Shell Eco-marathon for eight years now, and this year a total of 247 students participated across 20 teams (19 Indians and one from Oman) at the MMRT. Prize money worth Rs 20 lakh was awarded to the students competing in prototype (three-wheel vehicle) and urban concept (four-wheel vehicle) categories.
The competition saw student teams striving to prove energy efficiency of their cars with speed and skill sets of their driver on a shortened MMRT track. Student cars were required to complete four laps clocking a total distance of eight km using least amount of fuel. Participating teams had a choice to run their vehicles under two possible engine types – one, an internal combustion (IC) with petrol, diesel & biofuel, or two, a battery electric type powered by hydrogen fuel cells or lithium-based batteries.
In the prototype category, contestants showcased futuristic vehicles with highly efficient aerodynamics. However, in the urban concept category, students were asked to design more conventional, roadworthy, energy-efficient vehicles that could meet the needs of drivers in real conditions.
Team Averera, representing the Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, won a cash prize of Rs 300,000 for its vehicle competing in the battery electric prototype category that registered a result of 362.5 km/kWh. Team Averera developed a battery electric prototype built with carbon fibre and resin polymer. The teardrop design monocoque structure was deployed with 48 V three-phase brushless DC motor coupled to a customised controller to achieve high mileage.
Team DTU Supermileage from the Delhi Technical University was adjudged winners in the ICE urban concept category for achieving a mileage of 154 km/l, while Team Eco Titans from VIT University won the ICE prototype category for registering a mileage of 129.2 km/l .
Shell Eco-marathon was conceived for the first time in 1939 and subsequently it came into existence in 1978 in France when Shell started inviting students to build energy-efficient cars. In the India leg, participating teams had to comply with a set of rules and regulations put up by the Shell technical team. This was to ensure safety and technical integrity while building vehicles as per the competition needs. Shell team undertook 200 inspection checklists depending on energy type and vehicle category. This included independent functioning of brakes (both front and rear) on 20 % incline plank, which was followed by weighing scale in which the maximum allowed weight for the prototype was 140 kg and the maximum allowed weight for the urban concept was 225 kg.
If the car becomes heavy, the crash impact of the vehicle multi-folds; so keeping the weight as low as possible gives them maximum advantage, said Colin Chin, Technical Director, Shell-Eco Marathon Asia.
After this initial inspection, vehicles were split into two categories – ICE and battery electric. Out of a total of 20 teams, 11 opted for battery electric and eight teams used ICEs during the Chennai event. One team used ethanol. Subsequently, Shell conducted different tests in the third stage like in the battery electric stations to check electrical systems, battery, battery management systems to ensure it is safe and should not be dangerous at all times. Shell regulations also mandate students to build their motor controller and verify that students had built it themselves. This makes the competition more challenging and avoids any situation of students ripping off any other vehicle powertrain and chipping the same set into their own vehicle, Chin explained.
As per the regulations, vehicles had to be built on dimensions of 3.5 m in length and 1.3 m wide. There had to be a minimum wheelbase ranging from 1 m for prototype and 1.2 m for urban concept. Shell also conducted a visibility test on the drivers, as they lie low to the ground and thus mandated a 180-degree visibility. The maximum height for the prototype was 1 m and that for the urban concept was 1.3 m. This was to ensure the vehicle was stable throughout the competition. The minimum weight of the driver was set at 50 kg for the prototype category and 70 kg for the urban concept category.
One of the safety features is the emergency exit of both main and reserve driver. In an emergency, the driver has to exit the vehicle in less than 10 s, said Chin. Shell team also opens up the car to check its internal structure – headroom, leg room for driver comfort and safety. The engine compartment is at the rear. Ventilation is also important so that the driver stays hydrated. From a safety perspective, side mirrors and horns help drivers keep a track of their surroundings.
Teams are offered fuel tank top-up at 15 °C and Shell executives check the amount of fuel consumed at the end of laps along with temperature variation, as it affects density. For battery electric cars, the joule meter is used to measure power consumption in km/kWh.
The proceedings on day two were marked by the unveiling of the flat pack truck Global Vehicle Trust OX, an all-terrain vehicle that can allow access to remote areas and tackle a host of transport challenges. OX was envisioned by Sir Torquil Norman who established Global Vehicle Trust (GVT) in 2011 and partnered with Professor Gordon Murray to develop cost effective mobility solutions for the developing nations. It was in 2016 that Gordan Murray Design (GMD) and GVT company launched OX based on iStream technology by GMD.
The OX is designed to carry a payload of 1.9 tonne and has been developed with off-the-shelf parts to keep a tight rein on costs. The flat pack design ensures as many as six trucks can be shipped in a 40 ft container worldwide and each kit can be assembled from a flat pack kit by three semi-skilled people in 12 hr. Shell has partnered with GMD and GVT for the OX truck to empower communities in overcoming daily accessibility challenges and also across hard-to-reach communities in developing regions, said Nitin Prasad, Chairman, Shell Companies in India.
The event also featured a panel discussion on future of mobility focussing on emission compliance, sustainability, and various mobility options that could be explored.
As start-ups continue to disrupt the way the mobility sector conducted business in the past, traditional mobility players are also looking at readjusting their strategies and business models. Alongside, the government, mobility practitioners, transportation experts, urban planners have been talking about how mobility will undergo an unprecedented change in the coming years. Cross-industry collaborations are becoming new norms among automotive and tech companies along with start-ups, academia to find solutions for the future. The supply chain would also need to undergo drastic transformation to come up with meaningful solutions while looking at long-term viability, said Deepangshu Dev Sarmah, Editor-in-Chief, Auto Tech Review.
He was the moderator for the panel comprising Rathi Ranjan Dasgupta, Chief Digital Advisor – Automotive, Mobility, Manufacturing & Resources, Microsoft; Dr SS Thipse, Deputy Director – Powertrain Engineering, ARAI; Dr Shankar Venugopal, Vice President, Technology Innovation and Knowledge Management, Mahindra & Mahindra; Dr P Bala, Co-founder and CTO, Ampere Vehicles; Srikanth R, Senior Director, Altair Engineering India and Praveen Nagpal, Chief Technology Officer – Shell India Markets.
The panel unanimously agreed that mobility as we know will undergo a paradigm shift in years to come and it has to transform itself to a utility-based industry rather than remaining a capex-heavy industry. Different markets will have their respective pace for new age mobility adoption and there will be continued thrust on the conventional mobility till infrastructure for alternate fuels becomes accessible. Affordability continues to play a dominant role along with efficiency in India and it will be more of consumer choice, mentioned Nagpal.
Talking about the future of mobility, Dasgupta said there is a need to be technology agnostic as it is more about mobility as a service rather than experience of mobility. Digital mobility is not just about technology, but also includes government, infrastructure and society at large, where the vehicles will communicate with everything and adjust routes along with various other operations, he said.
Adding to his thoughts, Dr P Bala, Co-founder and CTO, Ampere Vehicles said vehicles of the future have to be a lot more modular, where mass customisation will happen rather than mass production of vehicles. It will be a digital platform, where vehicles will be more about the software rather than hardware, making it aligned with the personality that needs emotions and efficiency, he said.
As the auto industry is moving to more utility based industry, experts believe disruptions are happening across the value chain. Disruptions tend to bring in aspects like dematerialisation and demonetisation. However, democratisation of technology is important as everyone should have the access to it, said Dr Venugopal. He stressed that it is the right time to start thinking about how can the industry design new generation of technologies in a sustainable manner.
Dr Thipse said India as a country is predominantly slower in adopting newer safety technologies and added that a mind-set has to be developed in consumers to adopt new technology and train drivers to make the most of the technological advancements as vehicles in India continue to be abused with overload and underpowered engines, a scenario that will not change overnight. New product or technology development needs to allow experiments to come in and make sure sustainability tops the list.
Srikanth said the complexity of design in single modal transport is much higher than multi-modal way of transportation, which he believes can address the need of efficient transportation.
Electromobility does seem to be the definite journey everyone seems to be going towards for cost effective, efficient transportation. However, in the near future, conventional mobility will continue to play a crucial role and lubes would continue to play a vital role during the entire transition towards greener mobility.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja