NTU’s green cars win three awards at Shell Eco-Marathon Asia
Two eco-cars from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have won three awards in this year’s race for fuel efficiency.
Nanyang Venture III and Nanyang Venture IV both won silver in their respective prototype car categories of battery electric and diesel in the four-day international competition at Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which ended yesterday (7 July).
Dubbed the “Batmobile”, Nanyang Venture IV achieved 351 kilometres per litre for its fuel efficiency. It also beat 118 other international entries to win the off-track award for safety.
The safety features of Nanyang Venture IV include an innovative telemetric system, which streams a live video feed to the command post and is able pinpoint the exact location of the car; a secure six-point harness safety belt instead of the required five-point harness and a tough bulkhead which can withstand more than 1400 newtons of force, doubling the regulation of 700 newtons.
Nanyang Venture III, the champion in the solar category at the inaugural Shell Eco-Marathon Asia in 2010, was converted to a full electric car this year and achieved 522 kilometres per kilowatt hour in this year’s race, beating 14 other cars in the category.
A total of 119 teams from 18 countries in Asia and the Middle East took part in this year’s Shell Eco-Marathon Asia. New competitors include teams from Hong Kong, South Korea, Lebanon, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates.
In a bid to upgrade the Nanyang Venture IV, the team overhauled the “Batmobile”. While it retained the same sleek look, it is an entirely new diesel car with a new ultra-lightweight body consisting of a Reinforced Carbon-Fibre Monococque chassis.
Team leader of Nanyang Venture IV, Tinagaran Puvanasan, 23, a third year student from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE), said that one of their key strategies was to minimise the inconsistency of its human driver.
“To maximize fuel efficiency, an electronic throttle control and a programmable on-board computer was installed, replacing the manual wire controls of last year. This allowed us to programme our driving strategy into the electronic control system, hence helping to reduce human errors in controlling the engine,” Tinagaran said. “Also we have an improved drive transmission that reduced the rolling resistance of the car, which helped improve the car’s efficiency.”
Like its sister, Nanyang Venture III, underwent an overhaul. It has been stripped of its solar panels and is now a fully electric car. Gone is the aluminium frame and in its place is a carbon fibre backbone, which keeps the car light yet sturdy.
Team leader of the electric car, Leow Wan Yee, 23, also an MAE student said new features include reducing the weight of the car by 20 per cent, an improved drive train and a new set of electric batteries which could drive the car for 50 kilometres when coupled to the half-kilowatt electric motor.
“We had also included newly designed tank-like controls, which ensured seamless and smooth steering for the driver, presenting him with an unobstructed view and ease of access into the car. Coupled with our past experiences in the solar category, we are familiar with our car’s handling and performance, which we used to our advantage.”
Associate Professor Ng Heong Wah and Associate Professor Francis Nickols from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering were the two mentors who led the Venture III and Venture IV teams respectively to Sepang circuit for the race. Prof Ng said it was a long and tough marathon as China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan has always been formidable competitors.
“Competition is getting keener each year and there are tough new entrants from technologically developed countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong,” said Prof Ng. “This year, both NTU teams had to build upon their past experiences and improve the cars internally while using the same outer shells, which are already designed for minimal air drag and improved aerodynamics.”
“It is inspiring and amazing to see them working with enthusiasm and determination, so in the end, it boiled down to the race strategies employed by both teams and the discipline and the patience of the drivers to accelerate gradually and to keep a constant pace – which is very much a battle of wills.”
The annual Shell competition challenges students to design, build and drive a vehicle that can travel the furthest distance on the least amount of fuel. This year, new rules had also kicked in requiring cars to be rainproof. Participating teams had different choices of fuel: gasoline (petrol), diesel, FAME (bio-diesel), ethanol, LPG, hydrogen, battery electric and solar.
The efficiency of electric cars running on hydrogen, battery and solar, is measured in kilometre per kilowatt-hour of electrical energy instead of kilometre per litre for other cars which uses internal combustion engines.
Student teams participated in either the Prototype or Urban Concept categories. For the Prototype category, teams entered futuristic prototypes focused on maximising fuel efficiency through innovative design elements. For the Urban Concept category, teams entered more "roadworthy" fuel-efficient vehicles.
NTU’s history in the Shell Eco-marathon
This is the fourth time NTU participated in a Shell Eco-marathon event. The first Nanyang Venture I solar car debuted in the marathon held in Germany on 7-9 May 2009, coming in fourth out of eight in the prototype solar category and winning the off-track award for safety.
The second time NTU participated was at the inaugural Shell Eco-marathon Asia in 2010 at Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Nanyang Venture III clinched the top prize for the solar category and was the only one out of five solar cars to qualify.
Last year, NTU clinched two awards at the second Shell Eco-marathon Asia with its new Nanyang Venture IV, dubbed the “Batmobile”. It had won in the diesel category with 564 km per litre fuel efficiency and also won the off-track award for safety.
NTU also participated in the biennial World Solar Challenge in Australia where solar cars race down a route of 3,000 kilometres across the Australian outback. Nanyang Venture II took part in the 2009 race and came in a respectable 11th out of 31 participating teams. In the 2011 race, Nanyang Venture V emerged 12th out of 37 teams beating more established teams like those from MIT, UC Berkeley and Cambridge.
For more information on the Shell Eco-marathon, please visit http://www.shell.com/ecomarathon.
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About Nanyang Technological University
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. In 2013, NTU will enrol the first batch of students at its new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, which is set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to four world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).
A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.
Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north and is setting up a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district. For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg