Researching future of electric vehicles

They quietly go about bringing change – through the advancement of medicine, empowering students, saving the environment or helping communities. A pioneering group of Nelson Mandela University academics has been honoured at the institution’s Research, Teaching and Engagement Awards. 


Nelson Mandela University’s uYilo eMobilityprogramme │Researching future of electric vehicles

Nelson Mandela University’s uYilo eMobility programme, from left, Dr Nico Rust, Prof Ernst Ferg, Natasha Erasmus, Xander Theron, Charmelle Snyders and director Hiten Parmar
Nelson Mandela University’s uYilo eMobility programme, from left, Dr Nico Rust, Prof Ernst Ferg, Natasha Erasmus, Xander Theron, Charmelle Snyders and director Hiten Parmar

By 2025, electric vehicles – which have zero exhaust emissions – are expected to cost the same as combustion cars and many more people will opt to drive them.

In anticipation of the rapid expansion of the electric mobility (eMobility) sector, SA’s national multi-stakeholder uYilo eMobility Programme – hosted by Nelson Mandela University’s engineering innovation hub, eNtsa – has piloted a project that tackles challenges around energy management and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

Those problems are likely to arise on both a local and global level.

The technological knowhow gained through the uYilo smart-grid project saw the uYilo team winning Nelson Mandela University’s prestigious Innovation Excellence Project Award for 2018.

“Our smart-grid project looks at how we can improve the supporting infrastructure that will be expanded as the EV market grows, and how we can work towards sustainable energy management for charging electric vehicles that includes renewable energy,” uYilo director Hiten Parmar said.

uYilo has a pilot fleet of electric vehicles – provided by its partners within the automotive industry – and has set up its smart-grid infrastructure at its north campus base, which is the largest dedicated EV-charging facility in SA.

The team piloted its smart grid project at this site, adding a large solar array along with second-life EV batteries to store the energy.

It then had to devise the necessary control strategies to optimise the use of solar energy during peak daylight – and manage the switching between solar, storage and grid energy along peak and off-peak times – to ensure optimal energy usage for each EV charging event.

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