labels: Automotive, Features (automotive), Cars
Gliding smoothly at 180km per litre of petrol news
04 August 2008

A petrol engine four-wheeler with a mileage of almost 200 km per litre? The claim may sound incredulous, but that is precisely what a group of Bangalore college students have accomplished.

The students of the mechanical engineering department of Rashtriya Vidyalalya College of Engineering have designed and built a super fuel-efficient car which they claim addresses issues such as oil crisis, environmental pollution and need for green technologies. This is their first step towards eventual participation in the SAE Supermileage International Competition in the US and Shell Eco-Marathon, in the UK. Akhila Thyli Hemanth chats with their team leader Nishant Sarawgi

A visibly excited Nishant Sarawgi, the team leader for project Garuda, the supermileage super fuel-efficient car, enthuses passionately on the Bangalore-based RVCE college Supermileage team's concentrated effort in creating a super mileage car that reduces emission, fights global warming and environmental pollution and addresses critical issues such as the oil crisis.

Working on this project for nearly two and a half years, with a social life that hit zero, the entire team devoted all its waking hours into this project. But Sarawgi asserts that the end result has been worth every moment of their efort.

Coming from a Rajasthani family, Nishant was born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam, before coming to Bangalore to complete his high school at Bishop Cotton Boys School. His childhood passion for automobiles and machines led him to opt for mechanical engineering at RVCE. The idea of developing a super efficient car began to take roots when Sarawgi, always keen to do something different, wanted to start a project that would give the team an opportunity to apply classroom lectures into something practical that would enable them to interact with industry experts.

Soon, he started looking for other students like himself and formed a well-structured team comprising of Kayaan, Darshan, Bharat, Jacob, Krishna, Gautham and Rakshit. Work was delegated to each one of them and their roles defined according to their skill sets after trying to gauge who had the knack and skill for a particular job ranging from the technical to public relations and sponsorship.

Nishant talks of the hurdles the team faced, the guidance it received from mentors to overcome setbacks, what it took to make the car and on the spirited way they're assessing competition, from the home front as well as globally. Excerpts:

What challenges did you and your team face while developing Garuda?
Things weren't smooth initially as we didn't have finances to make things happen, and there were limited resources. The college trust gave us our initial amount to start us off on our project. That was the starting point for us, and helped us to take things forward. As our project progressed we faced a lot of failures, but we count ourselves lucky to have faced them as we were rookies. This provided us with a learning curve.

They say that Indians are good with theoretical knowledge, but we took it one step further as this gave us the opportunity to have a hands-on experience. We faced a lot of logistics problems, for example. It was a great experience to learn to interact with industry and how to convince about our designs and enlist its help. Then how to procure parts from abroad which are not locally available in Bangalore, or for that matter India. All these things actually helped us acquire a lot of experience.

We still have a lot of amazing ideas in our mind to optimise our designs and ways to get double the mileage than what we are getting now. The major concerns are related to engine modifications, aerodynamic shape, the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, lightweight-ness of the various components and the overall car, the lightest and shortest driver, and the kind of transmission systems that you use, the tyres and wheels that you use, the steering system and the seat for the driver. One of the major concerns relate to driver safety.

One thing I'd like to highlight as the team leader is that this project instilled in us a discipline to work against strict deadlines. This helped us tremendously. When the responsibility was given, the person ensured that it was completed within the stipulated time, thereby maintaining some degree of professionalism. This also was inculcated into our academics and we were able to strike a balance. This helped us to tackle it and move on despite failures and kept it going forward.

Tell us more about SAE Super Mileage International and Shell Eco-Marathon
The first thing we did as a team was to find out about our existing competition or events where we could display what we had done nationally and internationally. We searched for the information online, and found out about the SAE Super Mileage International Competition, in the US and the Shell Eco-Marathon in the UK  and thought that this platform would be a great opportunity for us to display Indian engineering talent.

These are two global events where students can join professionals to showcase their solutions on fuel economy, global warming and similar issues. Competing in these events will also help put the name of our college on the international circuit. We will participate next year, so this was one of the main reasons why we started this project. This was also an incentive for the team and everyone associated with us to take the project forward.

Are you doing this in collaboration with industry?
We had approached various corporates. Tantra Info Solutions Inc, (Total Outsouce Group), agreed to chip in and help us. They were our first official sponsors and gave us a lot of financial assistance. In fact, Tantra's association was the turning point for our project. This helped us a lot, as all the problems that we faced initially were financial in nature and their monetary assistance helped us overcome it. Tantra helped and encouraged us throughout the project, and the team will always remain grateful to the company and looks forward to maintaining our relationship with them in the future.

Then we have CD Adapco, who were our partners in CFD. They basically associated with us as they are leaders in aerodynamic solutions. They have also recently been associated with the F1 Renault team, and we were lucky to have had CD Adepco to back us up with CFD parts and software. They also gave us free training in CFD, which is expensive.

We also had support and technical guidance from Chameleon Motors. They were our main logistics support, and provided us with their workshop where we built the car. They gave us technical guidance during the assembly and then the modification of the car and the machining required for the various systems of the car.

What are Garuda's unique features?
It's very lightweight, streamlined and has a nice aerodynamic shape. Its height is very low because of the aerodynamic constraints, which is a crucial issue. We are working on the limited visibility for the driver. This is again because of the limitations to the car, but it is good enough for the driver. Some of things like the wheels and the tyres have been procured from the US as they are not available in India. It has been built with precision and perfection. There is a lot of R&D that has gone into this, making it a precisely designed vehicle. Even if there is one mm extra here and there, it makes a lot of difference to the mileage.

How much would it cost?
We don't have the proper figures to quote as it involved various other factors apart from the components or parts that went into making the car. Logistics, PR, transportation, etc, also figured in in the expenditure. The total project expenditure would be between Rs3.5 lakh to Rs4 lakh.

What is the aim of Garuda?
The Garuda was built out of a passion to do something different in the automotive sector, and to create a mark for ourselves, our college, our university and the country. To compete in international events and to showcase our talent, and to prove a point that we are on par with international teams, if not now then in two to three years because we have a lot of excellent ideas and concepts in mind. We have also applied for a couple of patents on some of our ideas.

We also wanted to create awareness about major global issues such as the oil crisis, energy conservation, climate change, optimal utilisation of available resources, and we hope that our ideas will be implemented in the near future in the automotive sector. As it is, oil prices and the quest for greener technologies is making headlines everywhere. We strongly believe that our project can contribute in tackling these issues and setting an example for other students or professionals to take up the initiative to tackle these issues and do something.

 What does your car run on?
Our car runs on petrol, ISO 10 pure petrol. It can also run on kerosene. It depends on the engine, and this engine can run on both.

So how does this help in addressing the environment then?
We are using petrol, no doubt, but there is minimal usage of petrol and the mileage that we get out of it saves a lot of fuel. There are concepts like hybrid and solar, but they are not feasible and practical as of now, and will take another 25 years to come about. We are starting off with petrol, but we can change it later on and make it run ina a totally different fuel, and it all depends on what is more relevant at that time such as bio-diesel or methanol.

But of course, reservations and constraints are there. We may come up with brilliant ideas but they may not be feasible from all angles. So, with all these things taken into consideration, we thought that petrol was the right fuel for us. Moreover, we'd like to make a strong statement that this particular prototype that we have built is giving a high mileage from petrol itself. Petrol is the fuel which most of the cars run on today, so it's of great interest to everybody, including the media, public and the industry. This should also inspire people to get the best mileage out of their existing designs. Our car is just a platform.

Where were the different components for Garuda sourced from?
Most of the components were from India, but a lot of components were not available in Bangalore such as the specific chassis tubing and the body frame of the car that we were looking at. We didn't know if, what we had designed on paper, was available in the market. In fact, that was one of the first things we learnt. That we shouldn't design something according to our own imagination, but instead find out first what is locally available in the market, and then build and design around that. This was also crucial during the later assembly of the vehicle. After a lot of R&D, we built the chassis out of high grade aluminium which we procured from abroad. This was easy to work with and is very strong. Mild steel would have made the car heavy.

We have used special wheels and tyres that are unimaginably light, and this was very crucial to getting a high mileage out of this vehicle. These wheels, which are of a particular diametre, were procured from the US and it took us one and a half months to procure it. These expensive wheels also contribute to the aerodynamic aspects as well. To give you an example, similar wheels are used in the prestigious Tour de France. It gives you minimum air resistance while going at that pace and adds to your mileage. So, we have gone into the depth of each system and have come out with the best possible solution. Some of the parts were not easy to procure and we had financial limitations, but these wheels were finalised at a much earlier stage of our project, so we were able to procure it easily.

The transmission system is one of the key areas along with the engine. it's a special type of CBD, a name which I can't disclose now, and has been imported from the US. It has to be integrated with the engine, and gives a very high reduction of gears which gives us very high engine efficiency and adds to the mileage.

Then we have the body, or shell, of our vehicle which was again one of the key areas due. Its amazing looks - it's very sleek, small and aerodynamically built. But to build it was a herculean task as we didn't have the proper facilities. But Mr. Chandran of Unique Fibres stunned us by building the very shape we wanted.

How is Garuda different from the Chimera, which is another fuel-efficient car developed by other RVCE students
Garuda was started right from scratch about two and a half years ago and this was out of personal interest in automobiles and trying to create awareness about issues like conservation and oil crisis. Garuda was created out of passion to do something in the automobile sector and to compete in international competitions representing our college and country.

This is a general platform, and Garuda is not limited to petrol driven vehicles although it started off like that. It can be taken to the next level where certain modifications can be made to the existing car and our designs by implementing systems into the car, which are related to the hybrid or bio-diesel concept like the Chimera has, or the solar concept or methanol driven vehicles. So all these things are possible in our car, which is the biggest advantage we have as the Garuda team.

We believe that our designs and concept, as a lot of R&D has gone into it, if not now, then as the project progresses and evolves, in addition to the new concepts that our juniors come up with, will definitely find some place  in the automotive sector. Chimera shares the same platform, it is driven on bio-diesel and hybrid concept and the Chimera team has made certain modifications to the existing Reva car as Maini was its main sponsor. It also got various components from Bosch and National Instruments.

These two projects share the same platform as both the projects highlight conservation issues and I believe that even Chimera can compete in Shell Eco-Marathon along with our team, so it will be a competition between different teams from the same college. That is something that we are looking forward to because its gives us the drive to keep bettering the other team. Their concept is different and their supporters are different, but we share the same vision.

Who has been your mentor?
Our faculty advisor, Dr R S Kulkarni who accepted the role almost immediately, was a big support and has been the perfect mentor to us. He helped us right from financial issues to approaching people for sponsorships, aiding us with the technical aspects and giving us useful inputs into finding alternate solutions,  and always gave us that extra pat on the back encouraging us to find solutions when we faced failure. He believed in us and always made sure that we were on the right track and met all our deadlines as that was very important. He is the main project mentor from college.

The team would also like to thank  Dr B Anand, head of department, for his guidance and support. Thanks to our college principal and all the other college authorities, the RV Trust, RSSTT, etc, have all been very supportive in making things happen and making the project successful. 

Apart from them, our sponsors have been very kind is sharing their knowledge with us and giving us a guiding hand when required.

Our family members, too, have been very supportive and a lot of credit goes to them. 

What about your future plans?
We weren't able to implement all our designs, concepts and innovation into this car because of various constraints. But it will be implemented in the coming months or years. For example: we are planning to change our existing carburettor system of our engine to electronic fuel injection system as it will give a very high mileage. It gives high performance and it is easier for the driver to control his vehicle.

Bharat, a team member, said that they would improve on the existing design and enhance the fuel efficiency to above 500km/litre, and participate in the international competitions like SAE Supermileage-USA, Shell Eco Marathon-UK etc. next year.

At present we are using a modified carburettor, which gives us a lot of mileage. We have made a lot of changes to it. Then we are also planning to change the engine. We're planning to change the side valve into overhead valve. We would like to claim the best mileage possible by implementing all this and give the international teams a run for their money.

But as far as commercialisation goes, some of the designs and concepts can be used in the automobile sector, but not the whole car itself as it has various limitations. However, we are confident that some of the design features used in Garuda can definitely be taken up by the industry. See: RVCE students launch Garuda supermileage car

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Gliding smoothly at 180km per litre of petrol