Eco-Car champs win again

he Nelson Mandela University’s Eco-Car Team were again crowned champions in the ‘internal combustion’ category at the 2018 Shell Eco-Marathon: South Africa – for the third time in a row! The event, which was co-hosted by the University of Johannesburg, took place on 25–28 October at the Zwartkops Raceway in Mid-Rand, Gauteng.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is a global competition that challenges high school and university students to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient vehicle. It began in Europe in 1985 but expanded to other continents, with the first South African event held in 2014. The 2018 event saw 13 teams competing, including three from universities in Nigeria and Namibia.

There are three energy categories: internal combustion engine (petrol, diesel or ethanol), hydrogen fuel cell and battery-electric. A R10 000 prize is up for grabs for the winner in each category, travelling the furthest distance on the least amount of propulsion energy consumed. Each team has eight attempts, but an attempt is declared invalid if four laps of the course have not been completed in 25 minutes.

In the internal combustion engine category, all three entries used Shell’s standard unleaded 95 petrol. The Nelson Mandela University set a new event record of 220 km/l for a petrol engine vehicle, which is equivalent to a standard car with a 70 litre tank managing to drive 15 393 km without refilling! This was a 20% improvement on their 2017 result, and an overall 73% improvement on their first attempt in 2016. The team had introduced several new innovations for their 2018 entry, including metal 3D-printed titanium parts, a bespoke telemetry system, and a lightweighting regime that shaved a further 5 kg off the previous year’s vehicle.

The battery-electric category had eight competing teams, four of which were from the University of Johannesburg. First prize went to the Hoërskool Florida team, who also won the Safety award, earning them another R2 000! There were only two entries in the hydrogen fuel cell category, both from the University of Johannesburg, with team UJ V^2-Over-R declared the winner.

The Spirit and Perseverance award was won by the Namibia University of Science and Technology team, and the Technical Innovation award by the Curro Krugersdorp High School team.

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