Built from scratch, light on its wheels, and designed to be able to drive 1,500km on just one litre of fuel, a super-efficient car created by students at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) is about to be put to the test.
The five engineers will take their ultra-low energy vehicle to Singapore in March to compete in the annual global Shell Eco-marathon Asia, where over 100 teams will be aiming to push the boundaries of clean-and-green four-wheeled transport.
‘Team UAEU’, have spent four months designing, building and testing the model that they hope will overcome fierce competition from all over the Middle East and Asia in the contest, where the challenge is to drive the furthest distance using the smallest amount of energy.
University competitors must fund, conceptualise, design, build, test and modify their own vehicles to run on an energy source of their choice in one of two categories: the prototype section, where drivers squeeze into low-slung cars, lying on their backs; and the Urban Concept category, comprising more familiar-looking cars, sometimes with several seats, that are built for real-world use.
The contestants use fuels ranging from hydrogen and battery power to traditional fuels, as well as alternative sources such as ethanol, with technical experts at the event calculating how far they could travel on the equivalent of a single litre of gasoline. For Team UAEU, diesel is their choice – and making the UAE proud is their aim.
“We want to raise the flag of our country high,” said UAEU College of Engineering student and team member Omar Aljassmi. “We want to challenge ourselves and test the knowledge we have all developed over our last five years at UAEU, and to see if we can do something that our university will be proud of.
“It’s been a short time in development, so it has been a challenge. But the car is special. We used a new concept - a very low-weight car which we derived from our brainstorming sessions.”
Concept is one thing; making it a reality was another. “The competition is about low consumption of fuel and energy,” said Aljassmi. “So we knew we needed to get the car to a low weight and have very specific requirements for the engine.
“We built the car entirely from carbon fibre, so it is really light and very, very strong. We also designed it with aerodynamics in mind, and that means the body can resist low air to deal with drag force. And we programmed the engine so it could work with less fuel.
“Our target is to be able to drive 1,500km with a single litre of fuel - and we will achieve it.”
Aljassmi said he and his team members have spent almost every waking hour after classes and lectures honing their design in preparation for the competition, which takes place from 16-19 March. And they are more than happy about this. “We’ve been staying in the lab until midnight,” he says, “because we want to build something special.”
It is the first time any members of team UAEU have competed in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia. It certainly has a confident team. “We want to get first place,” vows Aljassmi, who thanked the university for providing Dh100,000 funding for the project.
But beyond the rankings and the sense of competition and rivalry, Aljassmi and the team recognize a wider purpose from their participation in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia – communicating its sustainable message to the people of the UAE, and helping them to appreciate its relevance to the nation.
“With what has happened economically in the UAE and elsewhere over the past year, and what will happen in the coming years, people need to think about fuel consumption,” he said.
“We all need to consider how we will live without traditional sources of fuel.”
Dr. Hamad Al Jassmi, head of Graduations Projects Unit, College of Engineering, said he had strong hopes for the UAEU team.
"Additional to the university’s support, the team received generous support from our industry partners," he said. "Shell backed them with $10,000 funding. Strata provided full access to their workshops, manufacturing facilities, and raw materials. Etihad Airways waived car shipment expenses to and from Singapore.
"All these initiatives reflect the immense faith we have on future Emirati engineers. They have the skill; they have the energy; and hence we believe they can exceed expectations. The marathon is a good opportunity to demonstrate our students advanced sense of engineering that makes them stand out amongst their global peers."
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