NMMU's futuristic ‘green’ car projects to be showcased at Knysna show

APRIL 28, 2016

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s fuel-efficient “Eco-Car” – which has been designed to travel nearly 300km on just one litre of fuel – along with the University’s electric bikes, cars and other electric mobility projects, will be on display at the Knysna Motor Show on May 1.

NMMU’s display, themed “advanced mobility”, will showcase the Eco-Car – the fruits of a global student project linked with Shell’s Eco-Marathon events – as well as the projects that fall under the national uYilo e-Mobility Technology Innovation Programme, which is hosted by NMMU.

The Eco-Car project, driven by Mechanical, Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics students, last year saw the five-member team designing and manufacturing a fully carbon composite prototype vehicle, which participated in the African leg of the Shell Eco-Marathon, in Pretoria in October.

“The objective of the Eco-Car project is to challenge students to manufacture an ultra-lightweight car to maximise fuel efficiency and determine how far the vehicle can travel on a litre of fuel,” said NMMU Mechanical Engineering lecturer Clive Hands.

A spin-off of the Pretoria event – and a huge feather in the team’s cap – was an invitation to the flagship Shell Eco-Marathon event in London in June this year – although Hands said the team had not yet been able to raise the R600 000 it would need to get there.

Should they participate, they will compete in the prototype class (geared for performance, rather than passenger comfort) where a conventional petrol engine has been modified to accept a programmable fuel injection unit to minimize fuel usage.

“The Eco-Car is also fitted with specially designed Michelin tyres with a rolling resistance 10 times better than conventional tyres,” said Hands.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is an established event worldwide with competitions in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa.

The uYilo projects on display at the Knysna show will include NMMU’s e-bikes, a shared system of solar-charged bikes available to students and staff to travel between the University’s North and South campuses, the Nissan Leaf zero-emission 100% electric vehicle, the electric all-terrain vehicles (which are being piloted with anti-poaching mobility by Shamwari Game Reserve) and the personal mobility unit, the Segway. The latter, which has two large wheels, a handle bar and is self-balancing, is used for personal transportation.

uYilo was set up in Nelson Mandela Bay, the heart of South Africa’s automotive industry, by the government’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in 2013, as a means of stimulating participation in the national and global e-vehicle industry. uYilo also has its own nationally accredited battery testing facility – the first step towards stimulating research in battery manufacturing for electric vehicle and energy storage.

Also on display at the Knysna motor show will be classic cars, such as Ford Model Ts, Jaguars, Austin Healeys, Triumphs and so on, and super cars, including Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis.

Two very rare motorbikes, the 1927 Chater-Lea  and 1947 Sunbeam S7, will be on display, along with the 1954 Jawa Z15 500cc racing motorcycle, one of just three in the world. After the Knysna show, this bike will be permanently housed at the Franschhoek Motor Museum.

A painting of a Ferrari will be auctioned for charity, and the around-the-world driving adventures of Knysna couple Brian and Susan Dowding will also be showcased at the show.

Image: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s ultra-lightweight, fuel-efficient Eco-Car – designed and manufactured by engineering students – will be on display at the Knysna Motor Show.