2017 Shell Eco-marathon Asia – Interview with Norman Koch
9tro speaks to Mr. Norman Koch, General Manager, Shell Eco-marathon, to find out more about the programme.
9tro: What are your views on the programme’s objectives and goals when it comes to addressing the global challenges of future mobility and energy transition?
Norman: At Shell, we want to inspire individuals, communities, governments, and businesses across Asia to come together and drive change in a responsible way. Through Make the Future and Shell Eco-marathon, we hope to see bright ideas put into action, unlocking the potential of an entire region and working together to turn that potential into tangible solutions for Asia – and the wider world.
For Shell Eco-marathon Asia specifically, a future generation of engineers and scientists from the region will compete with vehicles they design and build themselves. With Shell Eco-marathon, Shell brings together today’s leaders with future innovators and people who are passionate about energy issues and asks them to think about sustainable solutions to the world’s energy challenge. The competition is a visible demonstration of Shell’s commitment to help the world meet its growing energy needs in a responsible way by working together with students, partners and other stakeholders.
9tro: What are your thoughts on the evolving energy landscape, including the most pressing opportunities and challenges that we face today?
Norman: Our world faces one of its greatest challenges: to generate more energy, while producing less CO2 emissions. This will mean a big change for our energy-hungry, interconnected world and energy system. It’s a transition that will require a mix of vision and realism, urgency and thoughtfulness. As urbanisation, living standards, population growth and the digital and mobile revolution all continue to progress, energy demand – particularly in Asia – is higher than ever and is growing fast, with consumption levels increasing.
The complexity and diversity of Asia means that energy challenges and supply vary hugely. What is consistent is that the energy we need must be developed in a cleaner, more sustainable way.
9tro: How does SEM nurture young minds to contribute to the cause?
Norman: Shell Eco-marathon is a unique, global competition that challenges students to push the boundaries of energy efficiency on the road. There are three regional Shell Eco-marathon competitions held throughout the year in Asia, the Americas and Europe. The competition provides an arena for students to test vehicles they design and build themselves. It aims to inspire young people to become scientists and engineers of the future.
We’ve seen some of the technologies developed during Shell Eco-marathon put to practical use. When building their vehicles, we encourage students to develop solutions that are as innovative as possible and some produce solutions that are well before their time. More than ten years ago, a team replaced the traditional camshaft valve train arrangement in their engine with a more efficient and flexible electromagnetic system, a solution that is only now about to be introduced in production cars. In 2014, a team built their car with a table size 3D printer. They were the first team in Europe who built their complete car with a table size 3D printer, which is something car manufacturers are now starting to work with too.
9tro: Could you tell us more about your journey with SEM over the past 15 years and how the programme has evolved?
Norman: I started out as Technical Director for Shell Eco-marathon – inspecting the self-designed and built vehicles contributed by student teams from all around the world, and greenlighting these cars to compete on the track. In that role, I attended every edition of the competition, spending each year traveling to Shell Eco-marathon events all around the globe to oversee rigorous technical inspections.
To ensure a safe and honest competition, the vehicles have traditionally been tested on areas such as the driver’s weight, turning circle, fuel and braking system, visibility, vehicle weight, seatbelt effectiveness, design, vehicle dimensions, fuel cells and battery power systems, as well as time taken to exit the vehicle. My time serving as the Technical Director has been insightful and educational, as well as inspiring – watching young students anticipate inspection results, painstakingly make changes to their vehicle to pass the test, and try their hardest as a team is very encouraging.
In 2016, I became General Manager of Shell Eco-marathon, in addition to my former role. Now, I am accountable for evolving the strategic framework of this programme to ensure it remains both academically challenging for the participants, as well as relevant for addressing the global challenges of future mobility and the energy transition. I also work with academic institutions and industry experts to make Shell Eco-marathon accessible to a wider global audience, aiming to induct first-timer participants from new countries every year.
Shell Eco-marathon has been running for 33 years, and is continuing to innovate and evolve. We develop new formats and categories that match today’s landscape and inspire new ways of thinking about energy. Last year, we launched the Drivers’ World Championship in London, and in 2017 we are bringing this to Singapore for the inaugural Asian launch. For the first time, teams will race on the track together to be the first energy-efficient car across the finish line. Shell Eco-marathon technical experts will use a new breakthrough technology to remotely measure the liquid fuels within the student cars in real-time, and transmit the fuel consumption to race control instantaneously. This new competition marks an important step in the evolution of Shell Eco-marathon, challenging students to push further than they ever have.
In 2018, we aim to introduce the new Autonomous UrbanConcept Vehicle category at Shell Eco-marathon, where students will be invited to develop their own autonomous vehicles. This move is in recognition of the impact that these vehicles could have on the future of mobility; by presenting this concept, we aim to keep our participants curious and passionate about where our dynamic energy future could take us.