Shell hosted its first Eco-marathon in India a few days ago and saw the participation of teams from around the world to battle it out on who’s got the most energy-efficient cars. Built ground up by students from around the world, the Shell Eco-marathon hosts two distinctive categories – Prototype and Urban Concept – the latter of which was hosted here.

The event consists of various teams from around the world trying to push their cars to extract the most mileage possible. Students are allowed to use internal combustion engines, electric power, or hybrids. These cars, although small, just enough to seat one driver, are made of exotic materials ranging from carbon fibre to polycarbonate bodies, to extract the best efficiency.

With exclusive access to the pits, we were able to speak to different teams to get to know their cars better. The event conducted in India was the world championship and the Eco-marathon has been since 1939, which actually started off as a bet between two Shell employees in the US as to who can get the best fuel efficiency. Fast forward to 1985, the competition was officially named the Shell Eco-marathon.

Ahead of the world championships, Shell hosts three local, or regional events — one in the Americas, Europe and Africa, and the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. The top four from each of the regions will be invited to participate in the world championships. The cars in the pits were the Urban Concept cars, meaning they need to have mirrors, lights, and even a horn.

Back to the pits, the Urban Concept cars are allowed to have three internal combustion engine types — petrol, diesel, and ethanol. However, this depends on the region and the type of powertrain that is popular. The cars don’t have a restriction on the displacement, but it is up to the students, as they are free to experiment, as long as they can get the maximum efficiency from the allotted amount of fuel.

Speaking about the car, Ammar Yassir Bin Abdul Rashid from Singapore, representing Temasek Polytechnic said, “All our specifications are similar to a normal car.” The team has been competing with their car since 2022 and runs an electric hydrogen fuel cell car. However, on the other hand, Andrew Baerg’s team from Canada, representing Saskatchewan Polytechnic, run an internal combustion engine.

The Canadian team runs a 35cc Honda engine with a fuel injector that has been customised by the team, mated to an eight-speed semi-sequential gearbox that allows gearshift at full throttle. “We’ve also spent a lot of time with the car’s aerodynamics trying to streamline the shape of the car. The tyres are made specifically for this event by Michelin and they have very low rolling resistance,” said Baerg. The team has paid attention to the weight of the car, which stands at just 100kg.

Also, what is to note is that there are Indian teams – Government Engineering College Barton Hill from Kerela and IIT BHU Varanasi – that are also part of the event, however, they participate in the prototype class. The two teams use electric-powered vehicles and have participated in events globally.

As appeared in Financial Express