Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia--It wasn't a Formula 1 race but the pits of Sepang International Circuit were just as busy--if not busier--with 94 prototype and urban concept cars at the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2011.
In this annual competition, students from all over Southeast Asia design, build and drive cars that can run the farthest distance with the least amount of fuel by using different technologies that may be applied as the global demand for energy rises.
For the second straight year, Thailand dominated the competition with LP The Chair of Speed, the car made by Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from the Dhurakij Pundit University, showing potential to run 2,213.4 kilometers per liter of ethanol. This means that the prototype needs only a liter of fuel to run from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Chiangmai in Thailand.
The 2011 figure beats last year's record of 1,521.9km/L, which was enough to cover the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
As with any significant achievement, the road to beating the 2010 record was not an easy one according to Amornpoth Suebwong, who drove the Chair of Speed to victory.
"The (Sepang) track was very difficult because of the slopes to we had to test several times and collect all the information we needed to manage the car properly," Suebwong said in an interview. "The car is very aerodynamic but driving skills are also very important so you'll know when to let go, to just let the car glide without using the engine."
Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa also received the alternative gasoline fuel award in SEM Asia 2011.
Aside from these two recognitions for the Dhurakij Pundit University, Thailand's Team ATE.1 from the Kong Thabbok Upatham Changkol Kho So Tho Bo School also bested other entries in the gasoline-fed category with its prototype, COBRA, for running 1,607.9km/L; and the Ayutthaya Technical Commercial College's PANICHNOOK won with a record of 97km per kilowatt hour on solar power (prototype).
Singapore, meanwhile, received awards for Nanyang Technological University's NTU Diesel Car Racing Team with the Nanyang Venture IV’s best result of 564.2km/L on diesel (prototype), National University of Singapore's NUS Urban Concept, K2R, with 59.4 on hydrogen (urban concept); and Ngee Ann Polytechnic's NP-DISTANZA Proto with 84.9km/kWh on hydrogen (prototype) and NP-DISTANZA UC with 58km/kWh on plug-in electricity (urban concept).
Indonesia was also a big winner with four awards in the urban-concept category.
The University of the Philippines' Team UP bagged the award for the best run for urban concepts running on diesel fuel with Kidlat's record of 59.9km/L.
Another recognition for the Philippines was contributed by Mapua University, whose Team Cardinals Amihan received the second place in the safety award for complying with the safety requirements of the competition. The Cardinals Amihan completed the competition with 186km/L in the prototype category.
Other Philippine representatives during SEM Asia 2011 were from De La Salle University (DLSU), Don Bosco Technical College, Technological Institute of the Philippines – Manila (TIP) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST). DLSU's DLSU 100 ran 228km (prototype) and Don Bosco's Grigio registered 93km/L (prototype). Cars of TIP, UST and Mapua's Cardinals Habagat team also ran but encountered mechanical failure while on the track.
Photo from Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2011