Seventeen Indian universities will participate in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia. Students from SRM University and Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) talk to Madhuvanti S Krishnan about what the next few months have in store for them...

“I am extremely excited that I am taking part in the Shell Eco-marathon this time. It is an enriching experience ,” smiles Rishabh Jain, a third year student of B.Tech in Automobile Engineering from SRM University.

Yes, it’s that time of the year when students across the world are gearing up for the Shell Eco-marathon that is scheduled to be held at Manila, Philippines, between February 6 and 9, 2014.

Touted as one of the most challenging and innovative student competitions conducted annually in Asia, America, and Europe, the marathon conducted by Shell brings together students and innovators who are passionate about energy issues. According to Viswakumar Menon, Country Head of Communications, Shell Group of Companies, India, the event’s history goes back a little over seven decades when a group of scientists from Shell had a bet to see who could drive their car the furthest on one gallon of fuel. The winner managed to cover approximately 21 kilometres. “What began as a friendly bet has now culminated in one of the most challenging competitions in the world,” says Rishabh.

Category and Design

Rishabh explains how at every stage, there is a lot to be learnt. “There is a rationale behind every little thing that is done, including selecting a name for the team,” he says.

“To begin with, I am part of a nine-member team called ‘Infieon’ Super Mileage. The word Infieon is derived from ‘infinity.’ The name of the team essentially signifies our aim of achieving increasing efficiency of vehicles in a fuel-efficient manner.”

Participating under the Prototype category in the competition, Rishabh further explains how the team’s focus was to design a highly-tuned engine for which members used electronic fuel injection . “It helps in easy tuning of the engine,” says Rishabh.

Rahul Ragothuman, team captain of the 25-member team from Madras Institute of Technology(MIT) participating in the challenge, talks about what his team has come up with, in lieu of the competition.

“We have named ourselves MIT Cruisers. Cruising is the second process involved in driving a vehicle and is done in order to gain mileage. It is based on this that we have named ourselves MIT Cruisers. We have entered the Prototype category and are in the process of constructing a gasoline-powered, three-wheeled prototype.”

The focus of the MIT Cruisers is on tyres. Rahul points out how bike and car tyres have a lot of friction, and the team is working to reduce friction by utilising frictionless tyres as opposed to the regular ones that people use.ChallengesWhile both teams unanimously agree that the support and guidance that they have received from their respective colleges is invaluable and has gone a long way in helping them achieve steady progress, they did face certain inevitable challenges.

One common problem faced by both teams was lack of funds.

“We required funds to buy parts for the vehicle, fuel, and more. This was not easy as sponsorships were hard to obtain,” says Rishabh, “Also, owing to the fact that we are students and not full-fledged professionals, designing the vehicle were an arduous task.”

Despite the little glitches they have faced, both teams are eagerly awaiting the finale that will be held in Manila in February next year.