Shell Eco-Marathon Could Prove Palm Oil In Biofuel Harmless To Environment

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By Massita Ahmad

SINGAPORE, March 27 (Bernama) – Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) Asia could be one of the platforms for Malaysia to prove that its palm oil helps to make biofuel that is both combustion efficient and harmless to the environment.

SEM could be the best avenue to counter the aspersions cast on palm oil as its organiser, the Royal Dutch Shell plc, is not limiting to any energy source for the competition including plant-based biofuel.

Being one of the world’s longest-running student competitions, SEM is a global programme that challenges bright young minds to design and build ultra-energy-efficient cars and then put them to the test in competition.

Vehicles must pass a detailed technical inspection before they are allowed onto the track to see how far they can go on the least amount of fuel.

“We have once Rapeseed Oil Methyl Esters (RME) as energy source for the competition. However, the uptake was very low. We have to remove it,” said SEM General Manager, Norman Koch to Bernama on the sidelines of SEM Asia held recently.


For 2018 Asia’s edition, students have to compete in three different categories based on their selected energy source namely Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) spanning gasoline, diesel and ethanol (biofuel); hydrogen fuel cell; and battery electric power.

About 122 student teams competed in either of two categories of the competition: Prototype – futuristic and highly aerodynamic vehicles or; UrbanConcept – highly economical vehicles that resemble today’s cars.

“We always review the category and if there is interest…students can tell us that we want to run in palm based biodiesel...we will add it,” said Koch.

“We are very much here to serve them … as a platform for the student …they tell us what they want to race in… we will offer,” he added.

The 9th Edition of SEM Asia which was participated by 18 countries across Asia Pacific and the Middle East, took place at Singapore Changi Exhibition Centre from March 8 – 11.

SEM Americas will then take place in Sonoma, California, USA from April 19-22 and followed by SEM Europe in London, United Kingdom from July 5-8.

Recently, the European Parliament had voted in favour of a draft law on renewable energy that called for the ban of palm oil in biofuels from 2021.

The EU reasoned that the widely-used commodity would derail Europe's ambitions to green its transport sector if palm oil is used as biodiesel. As the world's top exporters of palm oil, both Malaysia and Indonesia will be affected much by the move.

Malaysia had said that the move would affect the livelihoods of more than 650,000 palm oil smallholders in its rural areas.


At the 24th ASEAN Economic Ministers' Retreat and Related Meetings held here recently, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed took the opportunity to press the European Union (EU) not to impose the ban.

He had raised Malaysia's concern when he met EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on the sidelines of the meetings.

The EU is the second-largest palm oil export market for both Malaysia and Indonesia.

During SEM Asia 2018, seven teams from six Malaysian universities took part namely Monash University Malaysia (two teams), Multimedia University Melaka Campus, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and University Malaysia Pahang.

The teams were impressive with team UiTM Eco-Sprint from UiTM Shah Alam emerging as champions under the Prototype – Hydrogen Category, for the fourth year in a row.

By giving strong support to these local universities, Malaysia could prove to the world that palm oil blended fuel is so much efficient as an alternative fuel.