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Future engineers charged with ideas after electric car track day

Engineering students have been put in pole position for a technological revolution after getting behind the wheel of electric vehicles at a unique test day.

Students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) were invited to Mallory Park race circuit to experience the speed, power and potential of electric cars.

These ranged from smaller, family cars like the Nissan Leaf to full-blooded sports cars like the Tesla S2 and the BMW i8.

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The aim of the day was to give students studying engineering courses a hands-on demonstration of electric power, to inspire them in their careers and get them thinking about the potential of a technology set to revolutionise the motor industry.

The event was organised by DMU and its students were joined by those from Coventry and Loughborough Universities and Leicester College. It was part-funded by the Intelligent Mobility Partnership, a collaboration between transport research and business groups.

Though the day started out wet, the track soon dried up as car after car took to the tarmac and put in some quick laps, showing the student passengers the speed and range of cutting-edge electric engines.

The stars of the show were the speedy Tesla S2 and BMW i8, with long queues for a passenger ride in each. But the highlight for many of the students was get behind the wheel themselves, with the Nissan Leaf available to drive.

There were also talks and demonstrations given to students by owners and designers of electric vehicles.

Vaibhav Harsad is in his second year as an Electronic Engineering BEng student. The 19-year-old was left grinning after a ride in the Tesla.

He said: "I have, in the past, been in a Nissan Leaf, which doesn't have much power. But this Tesla was absolutely on point: you put the power down and it just goes, 45mph to 90mph happens in one or two seconds.

"It's so impressive, the acceleration, the speed: this is not what most people expect when they think of electric vehicles. Yet it's so odd to be at 90mph and have the car almost silent."

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Vaibhav is this year taking part in DMU's Formula Student project, in which a team of students compete with other universities across the world to design, build and race a single-seater sports car.

He said: "We're using a petrol design for now but I will definitely be looking to introduce electrical elements as we develop the design."

Dr Rick Greenough, research group leader at DMU's Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, said: "We wanted to give students as broad a possible experience of electric vehicles at a very interesting time in their development.

"The speed of EV cars isn't an issue anymore; they are as fast as you could wish for. The range is still an issue for some vehicles but since people don't often drive more than a dozen miles, range is less of an issue than people might think.

"I would say that in 10 years, we will see half as many cars on the road being electric; maybe in 20 years around ninety percent. The technology is coming on very, very fast."

Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2015

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