Bay team wins eco-vehicle challenge

NMMU has rocketed to victory in the Shell Eco-Marathon Africa challenge to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient cars. The NMMU eco-car team of six engineering students and lecturer Clive Hands took their little torpedoshaped car with its 250ml tank to a record-breaking 127.86km/l. “With that efficiency, an average sedan on a 70l tank could drive from Cape Town to Cairo plus a further 1 750km,” elated team leader Martin Badenhorst said yesterday. Achieved at average speeds of between 27 and 32km/h in seven runs, their new record more than doubles the winning 58km/l that won the event last year after the NMMU team had to pull out because of clutch problems. Built for optimum aerodynamics, strength and lightness, the NMMU eco-car uses sewing-machine oil for its low viscosity and sports a highdensity polystyrene shell and a scooter engine. The eco-marathon was run at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria at the weekend with electric, battery, hydrogen and standard petrol categories. Badenhorst said there had been an early problem as the car’s pressure system had started to overheat and melt their plastic Coke-bottle fuel pump, but this had been rectified by cutting vents in part of the vehicle. Before each vehicle set off for the final runs, a Shell team brought in from Europe measured the precise volume of fuel in the tanks of the competitors, from South Africa and Nigeria. Each run was over four laps and after the cars were pulled into the pits, the Shell team took over again to judge consumption. “We had to do a few unforeseen tyre changes and ended up with BMX bicycle tyres on the front – which had served us well in practice – and Michelin high-performance ones on the back,” Badenhorst said. “It’s incredible to think our car has gone from a blank piece of paper to the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its category on the continent.” Badenhorst said the team had now qualified to take the car to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon Europe in the middle of next year, so they would be trying to raise funding.