Meet Geec, Ireland’s first, second and soon-to-be third ultra-efficient car

15 Sep 2016

Niamh Keogh with Geec 2.0 at NUI Galway, ahead of the 2016 Shell Eco-marathon. Image: Andrew Downes

Created by engineering students at NUI Galway, Geec has proven a remarkably successful Irish entrant into international efficient car competitions. Niamh Keogh is the person behind the wheel.

Geec, Geec 2.0 and Geec 3.0 are Ireland’s 2015, 2016 and 2017 models of ultra-efficient vehicles. The odd-looking vehicle is a college initiative that has, each year, dramatically improved.

Geec NUI Galway

Blessed are the Geec

Geec – an acronym of ‘Galway energy-efficient car’ – and the students behind it, have competed at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe event for the past two years, finishing in a respectable place halfway up the leaderboard, initially, before improving last year.

2017, the year of Geec 3.0, should be a big one, with Niamh Keogh at the wheel. Keogh drives because, in her words, “a very important part of the car is to make it as small and light as possible.”

Small and light are coincidental traits. Keogh is an avid motorsport enthusiast hoping to develop her mechanical engineering degree into a career in that industry when she graduates in 2018.

Geec NUI Galway

The Geec 2.0 team in June. Image: Andrew Downes

Geec holiday

Taking place in Rotterdam in 2015, the Shell event shifted to London this summer, where it will stay for the 2017 race.

“We were the first Irish entrants ever in the competition,” Keogh told, saying the odd design – which is fairly common throughout the event – is primarily for aerodynamics.

“Basically, we do a lot of analysis on the cars to find the most aerodynamic shape,” she said. “You’ll see a lot of cars come to that conclusion. But there’s always one or two with ‘out-there’ designs.”

Geec chic

The race is not about speed, but about efficiency. Different tasks over the week-long event include seeing which car travels the furthest on the equivalent of one litre of fuel.

Another challenge sees each car complete a fixed number of laps around a chosen circuit, each travelling at the exact same speed. Organisers calculate their energy efficiency and name a winner in each class and for each energy source.

A wonderful, hands-on educational project, the Eco-marathon pits the best young minds against each other for what is, in truth, a nominally important competition. It’s the in-field co-operation that stands out most.

“The other teams are great. They’re so helpful – they let you look at their cars, what works and what doesn’t,” said Keogh.

“Sometimes, some projects don’t have full reports written up and available, but, once you get to the event, everybody is great and they tell you everything about their designs.”

The Geec shall inherit the Earth

Each model of Geec takes a school year to complete, with 20 undergrads and three academic leaders pioneering the project. While 1.0 and 2.0 were entirely different builds, Keogh says the team were clever enough to shift things for future projects.

“The next model won’t be a re-build. Instead, we’ll just be improving on 2.0, which was originally built as a foundation for future competitive cars,” she said.

Each year, Geec lost to teams from colleges who have been working on their projects for many more years than those in NUI Galway.

“Their power electronic designs are a lot more advanced,” said Keogh. “But we’re working on improving that.”

Rival cars have what’s called monocoque designs, which means that the exterior shell acts as the chassis for the car as well. A type of structural skin, this is something that Geec 4.0 will hopefully replicate.

Until then, though, 3.0 has a date in London next summer. With a target of reaching the competition’s Top 10 in the next year or so, Keogh and her colleagues are currently putting the finishing touches on this year’s team.

Then, probably next week, the hard graft starts all over again.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic