Belfast sends a DeLorean 'Back to the Future'

20th October 2015
Nat Bowers

Tomorrow, 21st October 2015, will be the exact date that Marty McFly visited in a modified DeLorean in the second of the Back to the Future movies. While we are still waiting for flying cars, Mr. Fusion and Jaws 19 (this time it's really really personal), we now have hoverboards and something that even Robert Zemeckis didn't imagine would exist in 2015: an electric DeLorean.

On that exact date, Queen’s and NIE Networks will unveil the latest version of the famous car, which students and staff have modified as a hi-tech EV - the first of its kind in the UK or Ireland. It is thought to be the first DeLorean to be built in Northern Ireland since production came to a halt at DeLorean’s Belfast factory in 1983.

Students and staff from Queen’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, supported by NIE Networks, have painstakingly restored and modified the DeLorean DMC-12 over the last eighteen months. It will be revealed on Wednesday at the Ulster Museum. Local school children will get a preview of the car on Wednesday morning, with the opportunity to find out more about the Electrical Engineering courses on offer at Queen’s, while members of the public can find out more about the Queen’s Electric DeLorean project at a free public lecture at the Ulster Museum at 6pm.

Dr David Laverty, who leads the project, is the ‘Doc Brown’ of Queen’s Electric DeLorean. He said: “In the future, more and more of our energy will come from renewable electricity - whether to power appliances in the home or our means of travel. The electrification of transport is a major global challenge, so projects like the Queen’s Electric DeLorean are crucial in equipping young engineers with the knowledge and expertise to build the EVs of the future.

"This project was about modifying a car into an EV, but we wanted to do it in style. The DeLorean was the obvious choice because of its strong connection to Belfast and its starring role in the Back to The Future movies.

“The DeLorean was in a poor state of repair when we took ownership in January 2014 and since then our students have worked with experts within Queen’s Electrical Energy laboratory - one of the few university facilities in the UK dedicated to teaching and research of electrical generators and motors - to develop the car’s hi-tech electric engine. We are using the original drivetrain from the DeLorean, including its Renault gearbox, which our students have modified so that it is driven by a 270 horsepower electric motor, giving a top speed of 120mph.

“As Doc Brown said, ‘if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything’. We are very proud of what our students have accomplished during this project. Queen’s Electric DeLorean has equipped them with the skills, knowledge and experience for a career in electrical engineering.”

Gordon Parkes, HR Director, NIE Networks, said: “It’s fantastic to see the electric DeLorean conversion completed. This has been a unique and exciting project that NIE Networks has been proud to sponsor.

“We’ve supported this project because it’s an original and innovative way of engaging and promoting STEM subjects to school children and students. What better way to prove that anything is possible with Engineering than with a project that has used ‘smart’ technology to convert the iconic DeLorean car into an EV.

“At NIE Networks we predict a skills shortage in power engineering throughout the next ten years and beyond, this is despite the power industry providing many opportunities for, highly skilled and secure jobs with circa 38,000 new power engineering jobs across the UK over the next decade. The essence of engineering is to find solutions to new challenges and this project has enabled Queen’s students to gain excellent learning and build essential skills for the job market. Working with Queen’s we have a stimulating agenda planned for the future, where the DeLorean will visit schools and careers events to promote engineering and hopefully inspire the Electrical Engineers of tomorrow.”

Professor Stan Scott, Head of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen’s said: “Today’s unveiling of Queen’s Electric DeLorean is not only an opportunity to celebrate the work of our students and staff, it is also a chance to give school children an insight into the exciting courses on offer at Queen's. This project has attracted interest from around the world with students from world-renowned Princeton University joining us at Queen’s over the summer to work on the project. Projects like this, alongside industry placements and study abroad schemes, ensure that Queen’s graduates are equipped with skills that set them apart in a very competitive job market - I doubt there are many others who can claim to have built an electric DeLorean!”

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