Shell launches eco-friendly marathon in Asia

by Ma. Rosanna Mina,

Posted at Nov 18 2009 09:53 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2009 06:45 PM

MANILA – A marathon that is not based on speed, breaking records and finishing first is set to kick off next year in Malaysia, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) announced Wednesday.

The Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) Asia will instead declare as winner the vehicle that has traveled the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel.

The inaugural SEM will be held from July 8 to 10 at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur. A total of 107 teams will come from participating schools in Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran, Singapore, China, Malaysia, India and the Philippines.

The country will be represented by teams from three schools: University of Santo Tomas (UST), Don Bosco Technical College and Mapua Institute of Technology.

Students who will compete at the SEM Asia are aiming to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient vehicle in order to win the grand prize of $1,500. There are also off-track awards for safety, design, technical innovation and communications and marketing.

The teams from UST, Don Bosco and Mapua were encouraged by Shell officials to go for the gold during the event’s launch at the National Sports Grill at Greenbelt 3 in Makati City.

Shell companies in the Philippines (SciP) Country Chairman Edgardo Chua said if ever all three Philippine teams will win in the inaugural SEM Asia, then it would be a feat just “like Manny Pacquiao winning seven titles.”

Chua added that he has “no doubt in his mind” that the students will achieve good results as they come from the top engineering schools in the country.

Shell Vice-President for Communications Roberto Kanapi, for his part, remarked that he has “full faith in us Filipinos.”

Mileage marathon

The SEM may be new to Asia but it began in 1939 as the “Shell Mileage Marathon.” Scientists at a Shell laboratory in the United States challenged one another to determine whose car gave the best mileage. They organized an internal competition to find out.

The concept of the mileage marathon became the inspiration for the first SEM in Europe in 1985. The SEM was brought to the Americas in 2007.

The competition has two vehicle categories: Prototype and Urban Concept. The Prototype category will feature futuristic and streamlined vehicles focused on maximizing fuel efficiency through innovative design elements. The Urban Concept, on the other hand, is focused on more roadworthy fuel-efficient vehicles.

The teams can use conventional fuels (diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline) or alternative fuels (bio-fuel, solar, gas-to-liquid, fuel cells/hydrogen).

Three hard truths

Chua went on to say that the SEM is a timely response to the “three hard truths” the world is facing.

“The world will require more and more energy,” he stated, noting that the continuous growth of countries such as India and China will definitely spur the demand for energy.

While the world is developing, Chua pointed out that hydrocarbons will be developed in places that are difficult to operate, making hydrocarbons more expensive. He gave as an example the Malampaya natural gas field in Service Contract 38 off Northwestern Palawan.

He said renewable energy will play a part but he foresees that in 30 to 50 years, majority of the energy demand will still be supplied by hydrocarbons.

Lastly, Chua brought up the “hard truth” of climate change: “There is no debate on climate change. We believe there is [climate change] and we need to address that… We need to mitigate that, limit carbon dioxide emissions.”

He mentioned that one of the best ways to address climate change is through energy efficiency. He added that the SEM comes in the picture as it aims to “achieve the highest efficiency possible for the transport sector.”

Energy challenge

Aside from eliciting fuel-efficiency concepts from students and advancing environmental awareness, the SEM also aims to help technical institutions, secure talent for their professional technical courses and promote technical careers among young people worldwide.

Kanapi noted that Shell would help the schools in logistics, give some subsidies and cover the accommodation for some team members when they compete in Malaysia. He pointed out that most of the finances will have to come from sponsors.

Shell expects that the search for sponsors will provide students the chance to be exposed to the real business world as they make contacts with firms and market their projects.

“It is Shell’s contribution in encouraging the creativity and passion of the youth to help meet the energy challenge,” Kanapi said in a statement.

Technical superiority

Chua, meantime, also told the student participants that being the pioneers of the SEM Asia “comes with a lot of importance.”

He encouraged them to do their best as their win can inspire other young people to take a technical course in college.

“We’re losing our technical superiority, excellence,” he lamented, adding that more focus has been given to careers in the healthcare and medical fields.

Chua declared it is high time for Filipinos to demonstrate that they are among the best in the world in terms of technical superiority at the SEM Asia. – Report by Ma. Rosanna Mina,