The Shell Eco-Marathon Asia was held at the Sepang International Circuit, Selangor, Malaysia from April 29 to May 2, 2019. The Marathon is part of Shell’s global programme (it is also held in the Americas and Europe) and requires engineering, mathematics, science and technology students from countries in Asia (including Pakistan), the Middle East and Oceania to design, build and race ultra energy efficient cars. The winners are chosen on the basis of how far their cars can be driven on just a single litre of fuel.
The Marathon consists of two competitions. The first is the Mileage Challenge which tests cars on the basis of how many laps can be achieved with the least amount of energy. The second is the Shell Eco-marathon Drivers’ World Championship Qualifier, a race which requires cars to cross the finish line within an allocated amount of energy. This year, Pakistan’s Toyota NUST Automotive Group (NUSTAG) was placed Number 11 (they competed against over 100 teams) at the Marathon.
For Habib Haider, Country External Relations Manager, Shell, the marathon is a test of the participating students’ “intellect and technical know-how. The objective since 2009 (when Pakistan began to participate) is to encourage students to take part in the marathon and be innovative, by using the knowledge they have gained from their studies.”
The Eco-marathon is a part of Shell Tameer, their Social Investment Programme. Initiated 15 years ago, the programme consists of two categories: entrepreneurship and access to energy. The entrepreneurship programme has so far, trained over 15,000 entrepreneurs and even assisted them in developing business plans in order to enable them to secure funding.
He points out that although the response to the Marathon in terms of the participating teams has increased from four to 10 in the last decade, it is still relatively low compared to countries such as Indonesia, which attracts at least 25 teams. The reason for this, says Haider, is because unlike teams from overseas who receive support from their universities, not only in financial terms but also in terms of assistance from their professors, teams from Pakistan usually fund themselves entirely and have to look for sponsors. Furthermore, the number of engineering schools in Pakistan is comparatively low and this affects the number of participants significantly.
However, the rise in the number of participating teams from Pakistan points towards the fact that the marathon is gaining recognition, and which Haider partially attributes to an increase in awareness of the event via digital media. He also mentions that Shell organised two on-ground events that showcased participating cars before they were shipped to Malaysia; these were held in Islamabad and Karachi in order to further publicise the event.
From next year, Shell intend to make more active efforts to sponsor the teams in order to help them secure better equipment and thereby, increase participation. “For the time being what we can and will do is publicise the event better to create more hype.”
The Eco-marathon is a part of Shell Tameer, their Social Investment Programme. Initiated 15 years ago, the programme consists of two categories: entrepreneurship and access to energy. The Shell Eco-marathon falls in the first category and according to Habib the entrepreneurship programme has so far, trained over 15,000 entrepreneurs and even assisted them in developing business plans in order to enable them to secure funding.
Other projects within this category include those that empower women. For example, Shell have previously partnered with Hira Batool Rizvi, founder of She’Kab, an app which provides low-cost, fuel-efficient and secure transportation alternatives for women. Another successful initiative is Sehat Kahani by Dr Sara Saeed who provides healthcare services to women in rural areas via Skype. Yet another example is WonderTree, an interactive game for people with special needs and which helps them improve their hand-eye coordination, physical movements, reflexes and decision-making skills; incidentally WonderTree won a Shell Tameer Award in 2017.
The second category (access to energy) has several successful projects to its credit. Among them is one which aims to provide solar energy solutions in southern Punjab in various ways. These include solar tube wells which allow people to have access to more water to cultivate their crops, reduce energy costs in flour mills, and perhaps more importantly, eradicate the use of wooden stoves that require people (mainly women) to blow air into the fire to ensure that it burns; a practice that is harmful to their health. By introducing these solutions, Shell aim to improve the quality of life within these communities. Such was the success of this initiative, that Shell Global have agreed to fund it and garnered the support of the National Rural Support Programme.
Over the years, many people who have participated in Shell Tameer’s initiatives (referred to as Shell Alumni) have found success in their respective fields. These include Sanwal Muneer who came up with an innovative energy solution: a roadside wind turbine that generates energy from traffic; he has now established a renewable energy company in the UK called Capture Mobility. Based in Scotland, he is an ambassador and mentor for Shell.
At times, innovations which receive recognition during the Marathon are used for commercial purposes. Two examples of these were unveiled in 2018; the first was a 3D-printed car by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University team and the second was a titanium internal combustion engine (ICE) made using 3D technology by the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) team.
Of course, given the amount of resources that Shell allocates to these projects, the question is how do they benefit the company? In the case of the Eco-marathon, it is safe to assume that it gives the brand visibility among audiences who will, in all likelihood, become Shell consumers in the future. Furthermore, as Habib points out, Shell Tameer’s initiatives help dispel the perception that Shell is “a fossil-fuel company. We work across energy, hydrogen and solar as well; we are not just about selling fuels.”
He further emphasises that the projects that Shell have undertaken ultimately lower carbon emissions and communicate that Shell is a responsible corporate citizen in the communities where they have a presence. All this, he says, shows that Shell are avid followers of the Paris Agreement which aims to eradicate carbon emissions by 2070.
Perhaps this is best illustrated by Team Hammerhead who participated at the Eco Marathon when they say: “Shell is doing an amazing job promoting young people and showing them how important sustainable energy and fuel efficient cars are.”