Is this the car of the future? Oxford Martin School enters eco-marathon

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University engineers have developed a car to enter an international competition to build eco-efficient vehicles.

Developed by a team of engineering graduate students from the Oxford Martin School’s Institute for Carbon and Energy Reduction in Transport and the University of Oxford’s Engineering department, the car, named Peggie, brings high hopes for success.

Peggie will enter the European leg of the Shell Eco-marathon in Rotterdam today.

This year’s competition challenges teams to use the least amount of energy over a 10.1 mile street course.

The students’ creation is made of ultra-lightweight carbon fibre and powered by an electric motor. The car has a top speed of 16.8mph.

Peggie will compete against 20 other battery-powered electric vehicle prototypes.

Lead engineer Justin Bishop explained that the project was an important step for the University as it focused on turning theory into practice. 

He said: “The University of Oxford does not have a long history of participating in eco-vehicle competitions. The motivation of entering PEGGIE is to provide a real-world application for our research. 

“It challenges us to move beyond the ideal conditions in the lab or on the computer to design and build a robust vehicle. The race will challenge both our assumptions on PEGGIE’s performance and the driver skill in navigating the corners efficiently.”

The name Peggie comes from the Energy and Power Group (EPG), part of the Department of Engineering Science at the University, which is contributing to the project.

Ian Goldin, Director of the Oxford Martin Institute, said: “The project is a great example of the Oxford Martin School’s desire to collaborate across disciplines and involve students.  We aim to push the boundaries of energy efficient technologies.

“The project involved members of the Oxford Martin Future of Computing Institute, who worked on the computational aspects of the vehicle, and is being led by the Oxford Martin Institute for Carbon and Energy Reduction in Transport.”

The winner of the competition last year set a record of over 500 miles on one kilowatt per hour – about the same amount of power used by a washing machine for a large load.

The team hopes to reduce the energy used by making the vehicle light and reducing drag through the design of its shape and tyres, as well as incorporating technology to guide the driver’s decision.

Dr Bishop added: “Other technology which we have introduced includes an eco-driving indicator for the driver.  This provides the driver feedback on her speed relative to the optimum for the point that she is in the course.  The optimum speed will be updated as based on track conditions, such as an obstruction due to slow moving traffic.”

But he was cautious about the University’s chances of success this year, saying: “The record setting team from last year is competing in this year’s challenge.  Many of the competitors have experience in this Eco-marathon. However, we are new to the event and do not have experience on our side.”