Shell Eco-marathon diary, day two: Getting a grip on a well-worn problem

Three Emirati teams have travelled to the Philippines to compete against 126 other groups to find out who can build the most fuel-efficient car.

Innovative thinking was a game changer for one UAE team, thanks to Ronald Almires.

Although the Eco Stallion had passed technical inspections to be allowed on the track, they couldn’t get past a few laps. And in order to qualify for a winning position, team cars must run all 10 laps non-stop.

Mr Almires, team technician for the American University of Sharjah (AUS), began thinking of a central component to any car, but one that may slip your mind.

He started taking a closer look at their car’s tyres to optimise the car’s performance. He decided that if the team wanted to make all 10 laps and with better efficiency, they needed to think about tyres that provided less friction.

This team had used every spare part laying around the labs and workshops at AUS. They didn’t have much of a budget, but when Mr Almires began focusing on the tyres, he knew there was a problem.

Worn to the rim, one or more of the tyres were about to blow at any moment. The students were in a foreign country that doesn’t have mechanic shops in many places like the UAE. Even if those shops existed, it was well out of their budget.

They asked locals where they could potentially go to get these parts but more so on the level of a junkyard. They were soon directed to Quiapo.

The bustling Manila marketplace is a hawker haven. It’s a place that, if you know how to bargain, can be a wonderful playground. Most importantly, there are spare bike parts as many in the city choose to cycle to beat the traffic.

And the same parts could be used for the Eco Stallion.

The team travelled to the market place on a Jeepney, the popular public transport stretched jeep with ornate designs, for under Dh1 per person.

After passing through eight vendors, the AUS team finally found a place that sold them two tyres and four tubes for around Dh250.

Mr Almires and the team immediately took the newly acquired parts back to the garage and went to work.

And yesterday was the first time the team completed all 10 laps.

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