A closer look at KUET’s jute-fibre race car
Kilo Flight, a team of Mechanical Engineering students of Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), has built a formula racing car out of jute fibre and are looking forward to bringing the technology to regular road cars. The car illustrates not only the young aspirants' potentials but also the diverse applicability of our golden fibre.
Team Kilo Flight built the car with the primary goal of participating in the Formula Student UK event--an annual engineering competition where participants showcase small-scale formula-style racing cars. It's one of Europe's most established educational engineering competitions. The team participated online and came out 33rd out of the 64 countries that took part.
Team captain, Arfan Islam, shared that they wanted to implement the theoretical knowledge gained from academic studies and develop their skills. When explaining why they chose the automobile sector, he said, "It was preferable for us since we are Mechanical Engineering students. Also, Bangladesh is underdeveloped in this sector, so we hope to contribute to its progress."
The car, known as Kilo Flight Alpha, uses a jute composite for a large portion of its form. The body, the air intake system, aerodynamic devices, and the driver seat are made of jute composite.
The car features precise, handbuilt components. Most of the parts were designed and manufactured by the Kilo Flight team. It took about three years and BDT 10-12 lakhs to carry out the project.
When asked about the power output of the car, Arfan said, "According to the Formula Student UK event regulations, we could not go any higher than 710 CCs. Our engine produces 43 bhp, and it propels the car up to 162 km per hour. The car has a hydraulic braking system."
"The team will continue to develop and improve the car," he added.
Safety and durability
As for safety features, Arfan says, "Formula cars are the safest vehicles in the world. There are automatic response systems in the car to save the driver in the case of an accident. The chassis is designed in such a way that even if the car rolls over, the driver will remain untouched."
While talking about the durability of the jute composite, Arfan informed that the composite is much stronger than it might seem. "It will not get torn, as some people might imagine. It will break, like iron and steel," he says. "We tried to cut the composite with a tool used to cut iron but couldn't cut it."
Furthermore, the composite is much easier to repair, according to him.
The three years of manufacturing was not a smooth journey. The competition holds annually, so the team has to work year-round. "Managing the team and keeping the spirit up for such a long time is a big challenge for us," the team captain said. They also faced financial and technical troubles.
"Investment in this sector is insufficient in our country. The team, along with the help of our alumni, financed the project. Since we have crossed the primary threshold, we hope that we will receive private and government funding now."
Additionally, the team felt a need for advanced machinery to make precision parts for the car. "Sometimes, we need precision to the sub-millimetre level," Arfan said. "We need to process the raw materials and prepare them for production, which also demands expensive machinery. So we found alternative ways and got around the problems."
Where do they go from here?
The team participated in the event online this year because of the pandemic, but they will go to England and showcase their works next year. Arfan stated, "We will bring electric and driverless vehicles along with the combustion vehicle next year. For the next four or five years, we will develop and refine this technology."
"Our ultimate goal is to bring this technology to passenger vehicles," Arfan noted. He explained that the technology used in racing vehicles are far advanced than passenger vehicles. "Considering the road conditions of Bangladesh, we will bring such things that no one else has done or thought of."
Bangladesh is keen on electric vehicles, and policies are getting prepared for domestic production. This team of aspiring engineers could help our auto industry move up the reputation ladder if given proper funding, technical help and recognition.