13 October 2015, Lagos – It was a game of chance for the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, FUPRe, Effurun, Warri, when it decided to participate in the 2015 Shell Eco-Marathon Competition, which ended recently in Pretoria South Africa.
The FUPRe built prototype car emerged winner, running about 55.9km with just a litre of premium motor spirit/ petrol.
As additional icing on the cake for FUPRe, which started preparations for the completion in May 2015, the team also won the best off track technology innovation by designing a technology which makes it impossible to steal the vehicle.
Although the University of Benin could not finish its race, the team’s urban concept diesel run car, also emerged winner as the only competitor in its category.
The Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient cars.
According to the competition organisers, “After a successful launch in 2014, Shell Eco-marathon came back to South Africa to see 12 teams from South Africa and Nigeria take to the track to battle for ultimate energy efficiency.”
We prepared to win
An excited team leader for FUPre, Ebijakpo Efemena, told Vanguard on the sidelines of the race track in Pretoria that the team was confident of its capacity and ability to win.
“We were the first team to go through the technical inspection and the second team to make it immediately into the competition. Also, our first attempt was valid,” he said.
Efemena, a final year student of Information Technology Department of the University said: “We came with our smart car in order to win the competition and to prove that we can design a car that is much more fuel efficient and take a long distance.”
He disclosed that the team was inspired by the head of a snake and the aero dynamic of its body. “And so we thought of nature and came out with a design that worked,” he added.
Notwithstanding that it was self-sponsored by FUPRe management unlike the other three teams from University of Lagos, University of Benin, and Ahmadu Bello University, who were sponsored by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, but the team was not deterred.
According to him, “We were not sponsored by Shell, but it was the school management that did. We applied for the gasoline and fuel category, and we made three valid attempts but one was not valid. Eventually, we are the team that has made it through the competition.”
Efemena also said the team’s faith in God gave members the confidence to enter for the competition, adding, “We also believed in ourselves that we can make it and so we did. Also, we appreciate the efforts Prof. Akin Ibadode, who without doubt had confidence in the team and for inaugurating the team on the 27th of May 2015. This move has made Nigeria proud and the team as well.
“So our preparations actually began in May. It began with the help of by our professor. It is the first of its kind and we are proud that we made it here. We had 10 members but two was unable to make it because of some financial issues.”
With regard to sourcing the components for the car, he said that these consisted about 80 percent locally made materials, while the balance of 20 percent, comprising the engines, wheels, and tyres were bought outside the country.
In view of its resounding success in the Pretoria meet, Efemena said the team will prepare for the UK Competitions in May 2016. “Immediately we are done with this competition, all effort will be made to build another car that will compete in the Europe Competitions.”
Going forward, Efemena said his team’s plan is not just build and design smart cars, but to providing solutions to challenges.
While thanking the Federal Government for granting him a scholarship when he built the first car in his second year, he equally urged corporate organisations like Siemens, BMW, Shell and others to sponsor such projects. “If we could achieve this with the little help from our school, we believe we can also achieve greater heights when we have other sponsors.”
Best outing for UniLag team
For the University of Lagos, UniLag team, which competed with a prototype, plug in electric car, the Pretoria Competition was its best outing, even as it had participated in both the Europe and South Africa competitions in 2014.
According to Adebayo Joseph, the team leader, “This is one of our best performances so far since we had been involved in this competition. In 2014, we did not pass through the technical inspection. Also, in South Africa, we had a bad record. However, this year was an improvement setting a benchmark for us to improve upon.”
Describing the prototype, he said: “The design we came up with was a battery electric vehicle that has a front wheel drive. We are using a brushless GC motor for efficiency and the weight is about 63 kilogramme. We have done so well because our efficiency is about 120.1 kilometres per kilowatts hour, and we are so happy about that.”
Although the team came fifth in its category, Adebayo disclosed that the team was particularly challenged with sourcing for materials that were suitable for the design, saying, “…the design and what you eventually manufacture is different due to the unavailability of materials. We used aluminum and the body is made from fibre glass.
“Initially we wanted to do a robot design, but considering the availability of materials, cost, others, we had to make use of what we had.”
With regard to getting assistance from vehicle manufacturers, he disclosed, “We applied for some of these materials from manufactures. Presently, we have different sub-teams from our teams. However, our communication department which is saddled with seeking sponsorship had met companies like Coscharis and others. We are hopeful that we would be able to partner with other auto companies.
“For now, we are focusing on making sure that we build a vehicle that is fuel efficient. If that is done, that will be our selling point to enable us to hit on a large scale to manufacture commercial vehicles for Nigeria.”
In terms of disappointment on the track, Adebayo said this was unexpected, as the team had test run the car several times before leaving for South Africa, without any glitches. “But when we were to kick off, we had some electrical failures.”
He however noted that this was not peculiar to the team alone, as even the best made cars also pass through some of these challenges before they eventually became a world class.
Against this backdrop, he expressed Team UniLag’s immense gratitude to Shell for supporting members participation in the competition, even as its vehicle “worked at the last minute.”
Total schools that participated were 17 schools. About 11 of the battery electric category, three came out in gasoline and 2 on fuels. On the 11 teams in our category, we came out with the fifth position.
Scarcity of raw materials frustrate Team UniBen
There was nothing else more frustrating for the University of Benin, UniBen Team, former 2014 champions than sourcing for the raw materials to build its diesel engine car.
Denis Iyekedinoya an Associate professor, in Mechanical department, UNIBEN, who supervised the team said members were faced with lots of challenges.
According to him, “This ranges from the inability to get the right materials from Nigeria; a lot of people run away from the diesel category, but we had chosen this to prove the opposite. However, we had the challenge of getting the right materials to be used.
“The engines that we used were adopted. The crush and other things were equally adopted. We adopted an existing diesel engine, but with few parts that we had to do by ourselves. Base on the terrain, we had come to compete.”