The team behind the invention – Standing (left to right): Lok , Yong Han, Daniel, Dr Chew, Teik Khoon, Chee Wei. Below (from left) : Ee Jen, Chee Kang, Mun Keong
The UTAR Centre for Vehicular Technology (CVT) has been actively researching on technology for electric vehicles (EV). EVs are powered by battery energy instead of the conventional internal combustion engines (ICE) which run on fossil fuel. The batteries used are rechargeable. CVT Chairperson Dr Chew Kuew Wai and his team of postgraduate and undergraduate students have recently converted an ICE vehicle successfully into a fully electric one which runs on a 144V DC motor.
The UTAR EV research team is supervised by Dr Chew who is also an Associate Professor in the UTAR Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering and Science. Team members are current postgraduate students, Daniel Yong Yew Rong and Ng Yong Han, while undergraduate students are Ng Teik Khoon, Hemalatha a/p Ganesan, Ng Mun Keong, Tan Chee Wei, Tan Chee Kang, Lok Kok Wei, and Tan Ee Jen.
This project started about two years ago and although some of the original team members have graduated and left the university, the project was continued by Dr Chew with new members. The team had a limited budget and they had to be very resourceful to work within the budget. This meant that decisions made had to be thoroughly thought through before purchasing any items to prevent wastage. Each member of the team worked on different parts of the vehicle, coming together regularly on decision making for the electric vehicle. The students in the team had to work on the initial design, concept, controls, power input and identify the different components for assignment of tasks.
The team was researching on the methods of utilising the high energy efficiency of the electric motor (about 60%) compared to the conventional engine which has an efficiency of only about 20%. Running on twelve 12-volt rechargeable batteries, the UTAR team’s EV was converted from a normal sedan running on an ICE system. Akin to other EVs, this EV is environmentally friendly and does not produce tailpipe emissions. Therefore, the exhaust pipe and petrol tank have been removed from the vehicle.
“Carrying these 12 batteries in the car is not only bulky but also heavy at the same time. We are hoping to use lithium batteries in the future as they are much lighter. However, they cost three to four times the price of the lead batteries currently used”, explained Dr Chew on some of the improvements the team would like to work on. Talking about the calculations, Dr Chew and the team remarked that a full charge could take the EV to about 80 kilometres in distance which would cost around RM7.00 of electricity to recharge the batteries. This brings the cost to less than RM0.10 per kilometre which is an excellent cost to mileage ratio.
“When we started on this project, it was quite tough for us as we studied electrical and electronic engineering and had very little knowledge in automotive engineering. However, that did not prevent us from achieving our goals and our passion in the project. It was a once in a lifetime learning experience and I learnt a lot from working on this project. Our team had to do a lot of reading and research and our teamwork certainly played a major role in our success.” said Daniel.
Meanwhile, Teik Khoon, a final year student who was instrumental in assembling the parts of the vehicle together, explained that the team had to work under harsh conditions such as under the hot sun, and there were times when the team had to stay up to two consecutive days on campus to do troubleshooting. “The main task is the coupling issue for the electric vehicle. Because of the intricate wiring in the conversion of the engine, I have to ensure that connections are done with precision and take into consideration the issue of safety and protection to prevent electrical shocks. Many times, I had to go on my motorbike and ride out to source for the many small and intricate parts for the electric vehicle, such as the small screws and nuts. We used our ingenuity to find solutions when troubleshooting and went out to source and purchase the many different components of the vehicle. It wasn’t easy but I was determined to make this work.” said Teik Khoon.
Yong Han, who is in charge of data logging, said, “If given another chance, I would do this all over again. To learn something new is exciting. I am fascinated by the control system and physical behavior of the electric vehicle. I monitor the energy consumption of the vehicle and analyse the data for future improvements.”
This UTAR prototype electric vehicle serves as a research platform for future research studies and improvements. The simulation results are not convincing without the evidence of real field test results and hence this electric vehicle is an important research tool. It provides an opportunity for students to explore and utilize their ingenuity for innovation and creativity in the field of technology. This vehicle also provides an excellent tool for hands-on learning.
The team will be showcasing the prototype electric vehicle in Chong Hwa Secondary School, Jalan Gombak, at the end of this month.