Hungary’s Megameter: “Their Knowledge is the Fuel of The Future”

Today’s modern, small-sized cars can go 20-25 kilometers (12-15 miles) on one liter of gasoline (petrol). Vehicles with a hundredfold greater efficiency will be seen at Shell Eco-marathon 2012 next week in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Like Formula 1 race cars, these vehicles will never run on roads, but participants in both competitions can tell you, there is nothing quite like the experience of designing and building an automobile.

The school we attend, Kecskemét College, is one of the smaller institutions in Hungary. Our teams have been taking part in electrical- and compressed-air-driven vehicle-building races since 2008. The success earned in these races led to the establishment in fall 2009 of GAMF Team by a dozen mechanical engineering students who decided to participate in Shell Eco-marathon 2010.

The main goal is to draw attention to energy efficiency. The petrol-driven prototype category seemed the best to fit this goal. We wanted to reach the 1,000 km/liter result for the first time, so our vehicle was named Megameter (1 megameter = 1,000 kilometers). Half of the team started to work on the engine, while the others had to build the monocoque—the external “skin” of the vehicle, which actually supports the structural load.

Our first engine was a Honda GX-25. We built a dynamometer for testing, but soon we realized that we couldn’t reach better result than 600-800 km/l (1,411-1,880 miles per gallon). So over the next three months, we designed and built our own engine (the MM-0), but we weren’t able to start it. We were disappointed, but giving up was never an option. We analyzed the technical problems, asked for help from our teachers and six months later, in a student’s garage, the MM-1 gave its first signs of life. It was a fantastic moment! We were able to create a working engine and it turned out that its fuel consumption was less than that of a mass-produced engine.

But there was no rest for the other half of the team: to reach the 1,000 km/l result, a streamlined monocoque was needed with very good aerodynamic parameters. Student Zoltán Kutasi and three other students made the beautiful carbon-composite body.

It seemed we were running out of time, because we had to concentrate on our studies, as well as work on our vehicle. We finished it just in time, but we could not make an electronic control unit (ECU), so the opening time of the injector was controlled manually by our driver (Ádám Szabó). He had to deliver the proper amount of fuel based on the engine’s sound. This OHC, four-stroke engine with one cylinder helped us finish in eighth place at Shell Eco-marathon 2010 in Lausitz, Germany, with a result of 1,588 km/l.

But Lausitz was not just the place for our first success on the track. Our friendship with the Finnish Remmi Team began there, too. They invited us to the XXXV Finnish Mileage Marathon, held at Nokia, Finland. We spent our summer holiday preparing for this event. We connected a VEMS ECU (a Hungarian product) to the engine. The test results measured on the dynamometer were promising and with this configuration we reached a 1,941 km/l result on August 22, 2010, in Nokia, with Éva Bertalan as our driver.

At this point, half of our team members finished their studies. The new team that took over in autumn 2010 decided to design a new monocoque and a new engine, now with a more scientific and professional approach. The MM-II engine and the body were designed by computer. At first, the 3D models were tested with an aerodynamic simulation program and after some modification we started to work on the male and female molds. Our new driver, Kriszta Á. Tóth, reached a result of 2,241 km/l in the petrol prototype category with Megameter II. We won the SKF Design Award Prototype (off-track award), and the judges offered this comment:

Kecskemét College, Hungary, won this award for alignment of external aerodynamic efficiency with excellent manufacturing quality and finish. The college students incorporated a highly efficient and unique self-designed, self-manufactured engine, as well as an ergonomically designed joystick steering control mechanism.

In August, we took part in the Finnish competition again. Our result was 2,661 km/l. We were invited to Cartagena, Spain, for a competition of vehicles using alternative fuel. After reconfiguring the engine from petrol to bioethanol, we won the Solar Race Región De Murcia 2011.

The autumn of 2011 brought some more change, as additional members graduated.  That’s when I joined the team as team manager. Again, we designed a new engine and a new body. After finishing the plans, and with really hard work, we had the MM-III engine and body manufactured and ready by early May. Next week, we’ll travel to Shell Eco-marathon 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The head of our team, Professor Mihály Bagány, offers his thoughts on our work, and its importance to the world:

“If all people in the world consumed oil at the same rate as the developed countries do, then we would run out of oil by the end of this decade. These economically and [militarily] advanced countries have terribly big footprints. But after a while, these advantages will become disadvantages.  Sooner or later, vehicles will not be driven by petrol. We do not know yet what can substitute for oil. But we do know that this question will be answered by the future engineers constructing the vehicles of Eco-marathon. Their knowledge is the fuel of the future.”