An Egyptian team representing Helwan University won fourth place in the Baja SAE, run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International), international automotive industry competition, but won first place in the Middle East category.
Sitting down in an exclusive interview with Daily News Egypt, Yazid Abdullah, an engineering graduate from Helwan University, discusses his team’s participation in the Baja SAE.
The competition’s challenge was to design and manufacture an Egyptian car that can traverse all types of terrain.
What is the story of Helwan University’s team in the Baja SAE and how did you think up the idea?
Another team from Helwan University called “Formula” came in second place for manufacturing a racing car in an international competition. Their win inspired us to participate in a similar competition but in the Baja cars industry, which can run on all types of roads either paved or non-paved.
Our 27-member team, which was the only one representing Egypt, applied to the Baja SAE being held at the University of Texas in October 2013.
The first obstacle we faced was the subscription fees, which amounted to EGP 10,000, but eventually we managed to collect together the money.
The competition was held in April 2014. Every team has to manufacture a car capable of running on all types of terrain, either paved or non-paved, as well as desert roads. This type of car requires special torque, suitable structure, and gear system.
Who were the most prominent participants in the competition?
There were 108 teams representing eight countries, namely America which had 80 teams in the competition. There were several Japanese teams, two teams from Mexico, and teams from Egypt, South Africa, Canada, and Kuwait.
The toughest competitor was the US Marines team, which was being supported by modern US military technology.
How were the competing teams classified?
The rating was based on the ability of each team to create a production line for the Baja automotive industry. It also considers the period taken to manufacture 1,000 of the team’s cars, and the team who provides the best offer wins.
Our team provided a better offer of manufacturing 1,000 cars in a short period of time and at the lowest cost, but we ranked fourth due to being two hours late because our flight was delayed.
The jury said in its report that the Egyptian team provided the best offer, superior to that of the Marines Team in terms of production and marketing systems. Due to our delay, the Marines Team ranked the first.
What are the competition requirements for manufacturing the Baja car?
The organisers of the competition required that all the cars should have a one-cylinder engine with single-roller that makes 10hp, with a capacity of 100cc. Each team had to combine the gear system with that engine so that it gives maximum power to run the engine. The team also manufactures all other parts, including the chassis, tires, brake system, the seats, and the seat belts as well as other car components.
How much of the car did your team manufacture?
The team was able to manufacture more than 70% of the parts for the car. The contest organisers stipulated the use of a specific engine and gearbox, which accounted for 30% of the car’s components.
What is the cost of the car?
It cost us nearly EGP 50,000, as we manufactured each of the parts on our own. However, if there were production lines for those components; the cost would drop to just EGP 15,000. This is the problem with the automotive industry in Egypt.
What does Egypt need to become a leading player in the automotive manufacturing industry?
Egypt needs to have production lines and a global brand and a logo on its cars. Graduates of engineering colleges can do the manufacturing operations. Students of the same schools have demonstrated their experience in global competitions. We have a decent infrastructure for feeding industries and it is only the lack of expansion in the manufacturing of new parts and exporting that inhibits us.
If the state provides the production lines, through companies like El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company that have halted manufacturing for years, we engineers could manufacture a car model and offer it in the market, as well as exporting it to many other markets, especially those in African countries.
If production lines are available, what are the specifications of the car to be manufactured? And what would be the price tag?
Ignoring the country’s economic situation, we can manufacture a car at a cost of EGP 45,000. The car will be of 1,200cc and have a horsepower of 75hp. It will have AC and 4 cylinders to reach a maximum speed of 180 km/h over the range of five gears.
We will import the engine from Brazil, as it provides low-cost engines that conform to international standards. We can build the chassis and all other components ourselves.
What car parts can Egypt start developing an industry for?
Egypt has an opportunity to develop a chassis industry. We have the labour to produce high quality but low-cost chassis. The engine and gearbox industry require more investments. We will also be competing with Brazil and Turkey, as well as other European countries, in addition to India, China, Japan, and Korea.