A group of engineering students have assembled from the ground up what they say is Singapore’s “first urban solar electric car” with 3D printed body, and it may be the first such design built in Asia, they added.

The body of the NV8 (left) was designed at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to fit on a carbon-fiber chassis. The 3D printed body utilizes 150 parts, and the car is due to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia scheduled in Manila from Feb. 26 to March 1.

To the right in the photo is the NV9, another vehicle the students built for the competition.

The ultralight NV8 is essentially just a city car, and what the students settled on after first dreaming of a supercar, after which they settled on a far-more practical design for the competition.

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“We decided to go with a 3D-printed cabin made from lightweight plastic, as we wanted to maximize the internal space and driver’s comfort while still being able to keeping the weight to a minimum,” said Ilmi Bin Abdul Wahab, a fourth-year computer engineering student who led the development of the 3D-printed NV8. “Despite being an Urban Concept car, it is no slouch and can reach a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour [37 mph], while maintaining low energy consumption.”

To date, 3D printing is a relative anomaly in the world of automobiles. It has been touted as ready to take off in some form or fashion, and for the university’s part, Associate Professor Ng Heong Wah said the students have pushed the frontier with their apparent “first.”

“We are extremely proud to have designed and assembled a 3D printed body shell for the electric car, which is Singapore’s first and probably Asia’s first 3D-printed concept car,” said Professor Ng. “The 3D printed car body was pushing existing technology to the limits and we are so pleased that it has paid off.”

“For it to be lightweight, thin and yet strong, we integrated a honeycomb structure and a unique joint design to hold the parts together. When seen against the light, the structure has a translucent see-through effect, like a dragonfly wing. It is a sight to behold!” Ng said.

The NV9 (right in photo) is a three wheeler which can tilt like a motorcycle to enable more controlled cornering.

“Using the latest engineering techniques learned from their studies in NTU, the students have developed innovations such as silicon solar cells that can be contoured to follow the car’s shape,” Prof Ng said. “This allows for maximum harvesting of the solar energy and a tilting mechanism in NV9 that can ‘lean’ in the direction of the turn to avoid losing speed.”

The annual Shell Eco Marthon starts in Asia, then the Americas and Europe, said NTU in a statement. The goal is to challenge students to “design, build and drive a vehicle that can travel the furthest distance using the least amount of energy.”

“For Shell, sustainable mobility means helping our customers to be more fuel efficient while finding new innovations to deliver a cleaner transport system for tomorrow,” said Jason Leow, general manager, Communications, Shell Singapore. “The Shell Eco-marathon plays an important part by inspiring young generations of engineers and scientists to think creatively about fuel efficiency, and to put new ideas into practice.”