Engineering Students Turn Vintage MGB Into Electric Car

Sep 14 2009 | 12:08pm ET

Students (15 in all) at the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering have turned a 1972 MGB convertible into an electric vehicle.

Roger Dougal, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, bought the car in 1984 intending to rebuild it but “ran out of time,” according to a university press release.

Instead, he turned it over to the electrical engineering students, giving them the opportunity to turn the British Leyland Motor Corp. vehicle into a car of the 21st century – a car run on electricity.

The result – the “Electric MG” – is not highway-ready yet, but can go “really fast for short distances,” according to Dougal.

About $10,000 was spent on the modifications, which took about 18 months and included replacing the original engine with an AC motor and a custom drive shaft. A bank of more than 100 supercapacitors has been encased in a plastic box and loaded into the trunk for the power source. A lithium battery will be added later and coupled with the supercapacitor bank to improve range and efficiency.

The car is awaiting further modifications, including a paint job, LED lamps to replace the headlights, a sports windshield and new carpet. Because it’s electric, the car sounds much like a golf cart. The students want to add acoustics to give the MGB-EV, as they call it, a sound more closely resembling a car.

“The changes take the car from one century to another,” said Tyler Price, a senior working on the project.

The experience has shown Price that electric vehicles can be a reality.

“I believe we’re doing something that will be used. We’re ahead of the curve. Only a few universities are doing what we’ve done,” he said.

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