Gulf Engineering Students Challenged to Build Hybrid Racers

Engineering students Abu Dhabi to Oman are going to get their first taste of creating a hybrid electric car in the first-of-its kind Taqa GCC Hybrid-Electric Challenge.

Published: 05-Jan-2014

More than 120 engineering students, including both men and women, from universities from Persian Gulf nations, including Oman, Qatar and Kuwait are putting their education to practical experience this Winter, developing their first hybrid-electric cars, according to the National.

The 2014 Taqa GCC Hybrid-Electric Challenge will meet this Spring in Abu Dhabi in what is being billed as the region's first-of-its-kind competition. Much like Electrothon competitions that originated first in Australia and then found their way to the United States in the early 1990s, including Nebraska, the teams are tasked with design and building the most efficient vehicles possible. Over the three-day competition, they will be judged on "technical innovation, quality of workmanship, sportsmanship and design."

Because much of the funding for the program comes from Abu Dhabi’s Petroleum Institute, the students have a added challenge compared to the Electrothon model, even though they appear to be using similar small, single person, race-chassis. The rules of the competition require they use a petroleum 'generator.' Electronthon competitions traditionally use only batteries and electric motors. Requiring the use of a petrol/gasoline engine ups the engineering ante because now the students have to control two energy sources and have them work in symphony, not an easy chore if you ask any EV engineer.

This is respect the Taga competition comes closer to resembling the Shell Eco Marathon. Reports the UAE's National, three prizes will be offered: "the fastest qualifying time, the greatest distance travelled on electric battery alone, and the farthest travelled using the petrol-electric configuration."

Presumably, the simplest approach will be a series or serial hybrid configuration similar to the Chevrolet Volt where the gasoline engine spins an electric generator. That in turn charges the battery, which provides power to the electric traction motor. Presumably the amount of fuel available will be regulated, but one can expect the cars to travel several hundreds of miles.

Given petroleum's dominate role in the economic and political life of the region, it would be expected that it would seek to maintain its status, even if including it in tiny little racers that would be better off with just a few batteries and motor.

Or maybe the organizers are just being pragmatic. Regardless, introducing these future engineers to an increasingly electrified transportation system is a positive sign.

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