2014-05-09

Co.Exist

This Nigerian College Student Built a Wind- And Solar-Powered Car From Scraps

Segun Oyeyiola took a Volkswagen Beetle and turned it into a fully renewable off-road vehicle. He's not going to stop working on it until it becomes the future of driving in Nigeria.

When it comes to the success of the electric car, billionaire Elon Musk is viewed as nothing short of a miracle worker. But roughly 8,000 miles away from Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters, Segun Oyeyiola has also managed to make something extraordinary on a smaller scale. The engineering senior at Nigeria's Obagemi Awolowo University spent a year retrofitting a Volkswagen Beetle into a wind and solar-powered car, partly made of free scrap parts donated by friends and family. Everything else cost under $6,000.

There's little question as to why Oyeyiola, who is taking his finals in the next two weeks, would devote so much of his extra-curricular time and resources to the project.

As he wrote in an email to Co.Exist:

"I wanted to reduce carbon dioxide emission[s] going to our atmosphere that lead to climate change or global warming which has become a new reality, with deleterious effect: seasonal cycles are disrupted, as are ecosystems; and agriculture, water needs and supply, and food production are all adversely affected."

"Therefore, I came up of building a car that will use both winds and solar energy for its movement," he continued. "This was my personal project because of the problem I’m planning to solve."

Dr. John Preston, chair of McMaster University's engineering physics department and faculty advisor to the school's solar car team, says he's never seen anything like Oyeyiola's contraption, which also comes with a GPS app that monitors car health. "If you could find a way to use both wind and solar in the same vehicle, that would be a marvelous thing," he said. "Using wind and solar means you wouldn't have to drive just during daylight hours. If he has figured a way to do it, that would be quite remarkable."

Not only did Oyeyiola install a giant solar panel on top of the Beetle; he also inserted a wind turbine under the hood. As Preston explains, that allows air to flow into the grill while the car is moving, subsequently turning the turbine's rotors and charging the battery at the back of the car. Oyeyiola also built a strong suspension system to deal with the weight of the battery itself.

It's not perfect. The battery takes four to five hours to charge, but Oyeyiola says he's working on that. The biggest challenges, he says, came from finding the best materials to use, and the people telling him he was wasting his time.

That last part doesn't seem like it'll stop Oyeyiola, who wants to create solar- and wind-powered cars that take advantage of hot, sunny Nigerian weather. When I ask him what will happen to the car after he finishes his last finals on May 15, his answer is simple, straightforward: "Keep improving on it, until it becomes Nigeria's future car."

[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

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22 Comments

  • Charles Andrew Hughes-Games

    Obviously they don't have a very high standard of education in Nigeria, if an engineering student thinks that you can power a car from wind power while it is driving. If he removed the wind turbine the car would be MORE efficient.

  • J Savage

    I don't think he is suggesting that (note the PV on the roof). A daytime charge from the photovoltaic cells could power the car at night while a small internal wind turbine tops up the battery. Of course, the wind turbine will only supply a tiny fraction of the power required to drive the car and resistance from the turbine will create some drag so night-time driving will be limited depending on battery capacity. It's all a question of percentages. Photovoltaic v wind / battery size / weight of vehicle / aerodynamics / weather conditions etc. I very much doubt if this car will be self-sufficient in energy even in the Nigerian climate, in fact, I agree, the idea is ludicrous. You would probably need a tennis pitch sized area of panels to push the weight of the battery along and you may as well forget the wind turbine altogether but the wind top-up principal is sound in physics, if not practical in application. Got to admire the guy's optimism.

  • Randy Sanders

    any possibility of a Hydrogen based & powered system for This? Then You would have water for power sources. as a previous owner of 2 vw adding a trailer to a front bumper is a great way to get good gas mileage per gallon. (ok, kind of joking)

  • Jon Mohr

    He probably has a degree in physics. I think that should explain why he doesn't have a design.

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  • evasquez

    The innovation here is awesome and absolutely feasible. We have done some similar projects on a slightly larger scale on a couple motorhomes and recreational vehicles with battery banks. And it's possible to be done on a small budget, you don't have to spend 100k to drive an electric vehicle. http://ccsolar.com/

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  • I begin to think the answer is not in huge corporate and governmental projects, but in a great many small but useful and efficient solutions from people like Mr. Oyeyiola, encouraged and facilitated by people and organizations like Fast Company.

  • More power to your elbow Mr oyeyoiola and I urge the nigerian government and well meaning nigerians to invest not only to invest to use this avenue to tell the whole world that we nigerian giant of Africa as we used to acclaimed that we can still produce another ayoola autonov1 of the scattered dreamed ikorodu born . Again. God will help us