The Perodua Eco-Challenge 2010 happened at the Melaka International Motorsports Circuit over the weekend, and we were there to witness 12 institutions of higher learning “racing” to squeeze out the the most kilometres from one-litre of Petronas Primax 95 fuel.

This edition is the second year where Perodua is running the Eco-Challenge as part of its corporate responsibility program. Malaysia biggest car maker by volume wants to make P2EC an annual event, and is seeking to rope in the Ministry of Higher Education and other corporations such as Petronas as co-organisers of this innovation nurturing competition. So far, Perodua has spent RM2.2 million on P2EC (over 2 years), which we think is money well spent and good value for the carmaker, considering the publicity generated.

Back in February, Perodua donated one unit of the Viva plus RM10,000 seed money to each of the engineering departments of the participating institutions, which included Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah (PSAS), Universiti Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia France Institute (UniKL-MFI), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Politeknik Ungku Omar (PUO). The other institutions are Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Universiti Industri Selangor (Unisel) and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.

I took a walk around the “paddock” before the race started and two teams caught my attention – USM’s heavily modified engine and UTM’s choice of Myvi wheels/tyres, which contrasted with the ultra thin/small (or standard) wheels of the others (team leader Saiful Anuar said this was because they wanted “handling stability” without touching the brakes in corners). Many teams also had a “boat tail” cutout for aerodynamics, inspired and “proven” by a car from last year’s contest.

In the automatic transmission category, USM retained the title they won last year and took home RM20,000 cash. Their Viva looked relatively standard and did not feature much aero mods. In fact, USM’s car was the heaviest on the grid (680 kg) with the heaviest driver; the uni chose to focus on their forte – engine design. Led by Professor Horizon Walker Gitano, the Penang based uni modified the Viva’s 1.0-litre three-pot engine to run on only one-cylinder and on an Atkinson cycle (like the Toyota Prius).

The American professor, which runs the USM engine lab, said that while the Viva engine produces 45kW, the competition required only 2kW, so their car made 3-4kW from an effective 330cc. The compression ratio is 11:1, with an expansion ratio of 18:1. They also used a self developed extra lean ECU (5-8% improvement over stock ECU), which is commercially marketed in the Philippines for LPG bikes! With 1,500 km of testing done, USM’s 37.2 km/l was entirely expected by the team.

In the manual category, UNITEN managed 42.7 km/l, which is a big 5.2 km/l ahead of second placed PSAS. Unlike USM, UNITEN specialises in CFD and aerodynamics and is no stranger to solar powered car events. Their car was among the lightest in the field too. UNITEN had various sub-competitions among students and combined the best of ideas for their Viva, which used nano-particle engine oil.

Most of the lecturers involved all agreed that their students learn so much more from a competition like this than by merely going through the syllabus. While some of the cars looked crude from the outside, there’s were lots of creative solutions going on under the skin, achieved with a small budget. Perodua is on to something good here with its unique approach to CR initiatives and we look forward to next year’s edition.

Gallery after the jump – check out the other modified Vivas!

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