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How Team Infieon from SRM is setting the bar for energy-efficient automobiles at the Eco-marathon

Team Infieon Supermileage, the 27-member team from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, is participating in the Shell Eco-marathon or ‘the battle of the ultra-energy-efficient automobiles'

The recent post-Diwali smog and poor air quality levels in Chennai have alarmed us to the point where we know that there is a need for improved innovation to combat pollution and environmental degradation. Emissions from vehicles are among the greatest contributors to air pollution in Chennai. Taking a bold step towards shaping the ‘green’ future of automobiles is Team Infieon Supermileage, a 27-member team of engineering students from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, who have built their own energy-efficient prototype car called ASTRIA to represent their state against teams from all over India at the Shell Eco-marathon India to be held at the Shell Technology Center in Bengaluru from November 19 to 22.

The event, is a unique global programme for science, technology, engineering and maths students to design and build ultra-energy-efficient cars, and then take them out on the track in competition. Around the world, the programme inspires thousands of students to work collaboratively in their university teams to put their theories of energy-efficiency to the test, using cutting-edge technology, critical thinking, and innovative ideas. We spoke to G Varun Ram, a third-year BTech student, Corporate Member and Vehicle Dynamics Engineer of Team Infieon Supermileage to know more about their upcoming stint. Excerpts follow:

1) Team Infieon has been around for a while, Take us through its history.
Seven years ago, a group of like-minded engineering students belonging to the Automobile department of our college began this tradition of participating in the Shell event after they realised the opportunities provided and were extremely enthusiastic about their yearly event, Shell Eco-marathon Asia, held for teams throughout the Asian subcontinent. Since then, before every season, interested students are recruited into domains of their interest. A training period is conducted where each student learns about the basics and refines their manufacturing skills. The team is a mix of students from various Engineering backgrounds, all imparting their knowledge to create this prototype. The team believes in having strong bonds with each other. It has been an amazing season working as a team and we look forward to a successful and enjoyable event this time!

ASTRIA runs on a hybrid propulsion system in the prototype IC Engine category

2) What is one passion that all of you share?
Our team is united by the passion of building ultra-efficient vehicles and developing technologies that could one day be implemented in large scale industries. Our team has been striving towards achieving the goals of energy conservation since we started and we don't plan on backing off anytime soon.

3) Why is your vehicle unique in terms of technology and innovation? How many days did it take - from ideation to final product?
This iteration of our vehicle has a hybrid propulsion system in the prototype IC Engine category. This is a technology which by far hasn't been implemented in Eco-marathon India by any other team. We also use the conventional carbon fibre shell and aluminium chassis. The ideation was initiated during the month of January 2019 after the completion of Eco-marathon India, 2018 and the final product was developed at the end of October this year, after a period of 10 months. First, the design of the prototype is done using CAD. Then we run real-life simulations to gauge their performance under various conditions using Analysis software. After this, the manufacturing phase starts where we procure materials and give components for manufacturing in various parts of the city (Chennai). Many parts are also manufactured in-house and assembled giving birth to the vehicle. Finally, the testing phase comes, where we test the vehicle physically in our college premises to check the working of all the components. Based on the physical results, the vehicle keeps undergoing refinements until a few weeks from the event.

4) What were the challenges that you faced initially?
The challenges we face majorly include financial and technical challenges. As we are venturing into a new propulsion system this season, we faced issues with integrating our hybrid system with the pre-existing IC Engine. Also, being a student team, our available resources are abundant in the form of potential, creative ideation and boundless will-power, over finances. We as a team, dedicated time and effort to tackle these challenges head-on and gradually overcame them.

5) How do you feel ahead of this year's competition?

We have heard that being a part of the Shell Eco-marathon event is one of the most enriching and educational experiences, where students get to learn so much about various fields of Engineering and Marketing. The event consists of many teams, all working towards the goal of energy conservation and it's a platform where teams can learn from one another and grasp new ideas and concepts. We have great hopes from the competition and our team is all set and pumped up to do extremely well in this edition.