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Charged Up

Data Science Student Working

You would have thought that students have enough challenges on their plate rather than creating ones of their own. But Carlos Silva, an electronic and electrical engineering student from the University of East London (UEL), is determined to drive up efficiency standards, especially when it comes to cars. 

Carlos, a student at the School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, has created a new low-cost electric car.

After taking a regular car and completely overhauling it to run electrically, Carlos believes his plans are on track for the road ahead.

It all began when he realised one of the costs associated with high electric vehicle prices was a lack of a modern and cost-effective propulsion system, even for mass produced vehicles. Carlos decided to prove it could be done in an affordable way.

“Electric cars offer a reliable and affordable alternative to conventional vehicles, while reducing the carbon footprint and dependency on foreign oil sources,” said Carlos. “However, I believe they are not yet self-sustainable and further research and development needs to be carried out by both vehicle manufacturers and government to bring the numbers up.”

Carlos’ aim from the start was to offer a propulsion method that could be reliable and cost effective.

“This led me to start my work with induction motors.”

According to Carlos, induction motors have been the workhorse of industry worldwide for approximately a century. Lately they have been regarded as a highly reliable and energy-efficient alternative in several applications, when coupled with an electronic control unit.

“Since induction motors don’t have a wide market acceptance for electric vehicle usage, I had to base my research on a very broad range of documents and sources,” said Carlos.  “I started by the fundamentals, comparing different control strategies and judging which one would fit best to the characteristics found on a vehicle, what kind of power source, how to recharge the batteries, and other unanswered questions.”

During the course of the project Carlos’ vehicle required several modifications. Not only was the petrol engine removed but systems that were dependent on it had to be replaced and redesigned. This included engine mounting, gearbox replacement, transmission, storage of the high voltage battery pack, power steering, braking system and low voltage 12V supply.

All of this had to be checked by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), accompanied with supporting documentation before the car was approved as roadworthy.

For Carlos the most rewarding part of the project was being able to complete something that was not simply a prototype and to take it to a level close to that offered by manufacturers.

“I wanted to make a difference in a world with fewer and fewer resources,” said Carlos, who has worked as vehicle technician for a number of years. “I particularly enjoy the lack of brake dust, and engine leaks in general. This results in lower maintenance and a large source of pollution from conventional vehicles is eliminated, allowing for cleaner and safer roads.”

The project is still a work in progress, although the vehicle is fully functional. Carlos is grateful to UEL for giving him the skills needed to further pursue his areas of interest, mostly relating to power electronics and programming in general.

“I have much appreciation for Dr Wada Hosny, Dr Nic Snailum and lab technician Ben Hajir for their support and guidance,” said Carlos, who intends to continue enjoying his car and take further advantage of its low operational costs.

He is working on a final revision for the control system and plans to apply the technology to more specialised applications, such as retrofitting existing vehicles and buses.

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.