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Blackburn students complete electric car conversion project

A group of engineering students from the University Centre at Blackburn have created their own electric car as part of a university course.

The seven-strong team, made up of Year 2 students, converted a petrol-powered Vauxhall Astra Club estate into a fully functioning, road-worthy electric vehicle, capable of covering 60 miles on a single charge and exceeding 65mph.

The conversion took just short of five months to complete and cost around £9,000. The car will be retained by the college which can expect to save between £1,500 and £2,000 every year in petrol costs as well as benefiting from the free road tax disc.

Dr John Barker, who led the course, said fuelling costs for the electric Astra has been around 4.1p per mile during initial tests.

He commented: “Many of the students have shown huge dedication to the completion of this project and have put in a lot of hours above and beyond the standard project time to complete the conversion.

“From the initial calculations, at current fuel prices which are only going to rise, we expect the car would pay off its conversion costs well within 6 years.”

From left: Muhammad Jarrel (BEng Hons student); Dr John Barker; Alexander Tyrrell (BEng Ord student); Mr John Hilton (Tutor); Christopher Mercer (BEng Ord student)

Explaining how the car is recharged, Dr Barker said it was a similar story to most plug-in cars are refuelled: “The electric car has a exterior grade plug positioned where the old fuel filler was. There is a long power lead which is carried in the boot which plugs on to this and into a standard house 13 amp socket.”

Alexander Tyrell, one of the engineering students involved in the project, said: “I have really enjoyed the project over the past year. It’s great to see the complete finished car and then be able to undertake the road tests.

“It is very important in engineering to get hands-on experience with modern technology and due to the new government grants, more and more people will be converting and/or buying electric cars, which means as new employees we need to be familiar with them.”

Although the conversion is complete, the work is set to continue for some time yet. Tests will be ongoing to monitor the deterioration of the lithium batteries and the development of the fuel efficiency and costs.

Dr Barker concluded saying: “This has been an excellent project for the students to get their teeth into. Everybody in the area will have to keep their eyes out for the car driving around town.”

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John Simpson

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