Thailand Champs at Fuel Economy

As fuel prices continue to rise and the government and media in Thailand continue to advise us on the "energy crisis", we are being bombarded with tips and suggestions on how to conserve fuel when driving. If you live in Thailand you will have seen suggestions that are far reaching in their relevance to the masses, such as: "only use your biggest car when you need to transport more than 2 people" and "try taking the roof rack off your car as it causes drag" or "wind up your windows when you're using the air conditioning unit."

little car
See... he's removed the roof rack and he's using his smaller car. Good man!

I thought that these suggestions were about as useful as telling an overweight person to eat less, but little did I know, that when taken seriously, suggestions such as these could lead to a 2979.58 km/ltr car!

A Thai team from Bangkok’s Army Transportation Engineering School designed and entered a car in the Econo-Power race in Japan. And they won. (Full story from The Nation is listed below).

Talk about good mileage!

Published on October 06, 2005

Thai team goes 3,000km on a litre of petrol to clinch Econo-Power race. Despite all the hoopla about the high cost of gasoline, a group of Thai vocational students and their teachers have shown that a litre of gasoline can go a long way – 2,979.58 kilometres in this case.

It might seem impossible to run a car for almost 3,000 kilometres with just a litre of gasoline, but that’s exactly what a group of Thai vocational students and their teachers did this week in a Japanese race for fuel-efficient cars.

The team from Bangkok’s Army Transportation Engineering School beat off 490 teams from Japan, Thailand, China and Malaysia to win the Soichiro Honda Cup at the 25th Honda Econo-Power Race.

Held at the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack near Tokyo, the competition started on September 29 and concluded on Tuesday.

The winning team consisted of vocational students Pratchakorn Omkaew, 21, and Chaiwat Kongpramote, 20, and teachers Bunma Nawathong and Sommai Buromsee.

Team manager Kanob Rod-arin said the team won the right to enter the race after winning a qualifying race in Thailand hosted by Honda Thailand.

All the cars in the race had to run a distance of 16 kilometres at Twin Ring Motegi above 25 kilometres per hour (kph). The petrol used by each car was calculated with a formula (see box) to determine which car saved the most energy.

“We beat the Japanese runner-up, who ran for 2,800kph, with only a few drops of oil,” said Kanob.

The team clocked in at 2,979.58 kilometres per litre with a three-wheeled car powered by a Honda Wave 125cc engine with a maximum speed of 30kph.

The school also won last year’s competition with a record 1,917.746 kilometres per litre. Last year’s team was the same as this year’s except for Chaiwat, who replaced a graduating senior student.

Based on last year’s model, the team spent three months redesigning, building and testing their three-wheeler with the help of students Saravuth Leerak, 20, and Kittipong Jampa, 19.

This year’s model was more aerodynamic, but it was very similar to last year’s car in terms of its aluminium body, small carburettor system, slide valve to reduce energy loss while switched off and combustion chamber warming device.

Kanob said the new model was raised higher off the ground to lift the 50-kg car and save energy, and the teardrop-shaped body covered the two wheels along the side to reduce resistance.

Pratchakorn, who drove the car this year and last year, said driving required a lot of technique because calculations had to be made to get the most out of the petrol.

“I have to start and run the engine for five seconds before I turn it off again. When the speed reaches 20kph, I have to restart it,” said Pratchakorn, who broke his leg in a road accident 20 days before the race.

The energy-saving model and technique of the Thai champions could be used in car designs to alleviate the current oil crisis, Kanob said. But that requires huge investment so the team will settle for sharing information and experiences with other Thai schools.

Pratchakorn and Chaiwat said the race taught them a lot about auto mechanics and they felt confident that they would learn even more skills.

“We are very proud to have won the race,” Pratchakorn said.

Premyuda Boonroj

The Nation