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Annual Report 2018

Driving the future

Michael Barnhill, Nick Dowling, Samuel Poirier and Isaac Barkhouse

Innovation is what keeps the automotive industry moving forward, and four engineering students are trying to drive it into a greener future.

The four students – Michael Barnhill, Nick Dowling, Isaac Barkhouse and Samuel Poirier – are driving to commercialize their work through their new startup, Potential Motors.

The students have successfully developed a way to quickly convert the conventional gasoline-fueled car over to electric-powered ones with a conversion kit.

Earlier this year, they had the opportunity to showcase their innovation to the public at the UNB Engineering Design Symposium, which featured their new high-tech demo car.

During the showcase hundreds of students presented their designs and prototypes to the community during the one-day symposium. More than half of the projects were sponsored by external clients and students were monitored by practicing engineers.

“There are laws coming into play over the next 10 years to ban internal combustion engine vehicles,” says Dowling. “In Germany, they just passed regulations that allow cities to ban diesel and high-emitting vehicles. That affects 13 million vehicles in Germany right now. We don’t think that it’s environmentally or economically savvy to send these vehicles to the scrapyard. We want to convert them, but we want to start in New Brunswick first.”

This involves replacing the fossil fuel engine with three brand-new components made up of modules – a motor, batteries and an electronic unit. The motor is a universal electric motor system, specifically designed to replace the regular motor.

The engine is built in a modular style, so that components can be either added or removed to make the car faster or slower, have less or more range, or be able to charge faster. The four will also be offering three trim packages for low, mid and high-range models.

The students say they can convert a vehicle to electric in under a day for an affordable price. With the technology that’s been developed for their senior engineering design class at UNB, they are able to cut down on conversion time and cost of other kits.

“We couldn’t have accomplished this idea without the help of UNB. The people here have been our biggest partner and asset, and have provided us with knowledge and inspiration – not to mention a great group of mentors,” says Barnhill.