UJ’s electrical car races to be most efficient at the Shell Eco-Marathon in London

The University of Johannesburg Voltronics team and their car at the Shell Eco-Marathon in London

The University of Johannesburg Voltronics team and their car at the Shell Eco-Marathon in London

On 3 July, the University of Johannesburg’s Voltronics team stood proudly with their prototype battery-electrical vehicle after it finished in 15th place globally in the Shell Eco Marathon in London, ahead of teams from France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey and Spain.

The Shell Eco-Marathon, which takes place on a custom-built track, provides a platform where students can use renewable and non-renewable resources to design and build a highly fuel efficient car that can be used for future transportation. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) team consisted of eight engineering students, a team mentor and mechanical engineer.

The UJ team was the only team from Africa to race officially. Despite there being teams from Tunisia, Morocca and Nigeria registered for the marathon, they unfortunately either did not post valid racing results or did not pass technical inspection by Shell.

UJ team mentor Dr Yuko Roodt, senior lecturer at the department of electrical and electronic engineering science, says: “A project like this provides students with the opportunity to learn and work on an intricate and complex project with many aspects from communication, administration, logistics, design, development, integration and testing. This is the culmination of all their studies. The marathon tests engineering skills as well as innovation.”

Fifty teams registered in the category and under the same energy type, of which 45 teams passed technical inspection and 30 teams registered valid racing results in London.

According to Roodt, “the UJ team’s first generation electrical vehicle was already energy efficient. That car clocked 140 km/kWh on the speedometer, meaning it could drive 140km on just one kilowatt of electricity, about the same power as using a microwave on a medium setting for an hour. That vehicle won the 2014 African Shell Eco-Marathon at the Kyalami Raceway.”

The UJ vehicle, dubbed “Nightfury” achieved a best racing result of 309 km/kWh. This was less efficient than its previous best of 343.8km/kWh posted at the South African competition.

“The race track at the aquatic centre next to the Olympic Stadium in London was challenging compared to the South African one; there were many more hills and it was a temporary one built for the event,” explains Roodt.

During the Shell Eco-Marathon Europe competition each team is allowed four attempts. Each attempt consists of eight laps of 2.215km that have to be completed in under 43 minutes with the best possible energy or fuel economy. The best attempt counts for the final result.

The team was pleased with their vehicle’s results and believes the Shell Eco-Marathon Europe will help them to prepare and improve their prototype battery-electrical vehicle for the African Shell Eco-Marathon race in August 2016.

Since 2010 UJ has used a multi-disciplinary approach to develop energy efficient vehicles fit to compete in marathons. The university actively invests in research and education on alternative energy and collaborates with industry partners to be at the forefront of a solution to the looming global energy crisis.

Find out more about #UJBeTheSolution at www.uj.ac.za/bethesolution