A prototype battery-electrical car designed by students from the University of Johannesburg finished 15th in the recent Shell Eco-Marathon on a custom-built track in London.
The eight-student team is from the faculty of engineering and the built environment.
The stellar team that represented South Africa were: Pieter Erasmus (team leader) , Eduard Basson, Reginald Masher, Nicholas Harvey, Shalaka Thomas, Paul Lee, Ryan Coetzee and Marissa Erasmus.
They went up against other students that amounted to about 300 teams. The marathon is designed for students to produce innovative solutions by using renewable and nonrenewable resources by designing, manufacturing and building a car that will be highly fuel efficient for future transportation.
According to senior lecturer at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science, Dr Yuko Roodt, the UJ team’s first generation electrical vehicle was very efficient already.
“The car did 140km/kwh,” said Roodt. “This meant it could drive 140km on just one kilowatt of electricity, about the same power as using a microwave on a medium for an hour,” he said.
He added that vehicle won the African Shell Eco-Marathon at the Kyalami Raceway about two years ago.
“In 2015, the team built their second-generation electric vehicle and won the SA Shell Eco Marathon for the second time at Zwartkops,” explained Roodt. He said that at the time they got a result of 343.8 km/kWh, doubling their performance in a single year.
Roodt proudly professed that this result had placed the UJ team among the top teams internationally.
Driven by female UJ engineering student Shalaka Thomas‚ the vehicle – dubbed “Nightfury” and which achieved a best racing result of 309 km/kWh – finished ahead of teams from France‚ the Netherlands‚ Ireland‚ Turkey and Spain.
The UJ team‚ the only African one to race officially was one of 50 teams that registered in the category Prototype.
Of those‚ 45 teams passed technical inspection and 30 teams registered valid racing results in London. Teams from Tunisia‚ Morocca and Nigeria registered for the Eco marathon. These teams did not post valid racing results or did not pass technical inspection by Shell.
The team was pleased with their vehicle’s results and believes the Shell Eco-Marathon Europe will help them prepare and improve their Prototype Battery Electrical vehicle for the African Shell Eco-Marathon race in August 2016.
”The race was intimidating because the other teams have been racing for longer. It was a lot of fun too‚ driving a tiny car going quite fast. The car is so tiny and you’re strapped down. You’re almost in a sleeping position driving it. That’s not ideal for driving but it is the most energy efficient‚” said Thomas.