The government has promised to back local universities’ research into and development of energy-efficient cars, including offering funding of Rp 100 billion ($10.7 million) to design an electric car.
“We’re serious, we’re not playing around,” Education Minister Muhammad Nuh said on Thursday during an inspection of experimental cars designed by Indonesian universities for an upcoming international competition.
“We’ve already got a road map for the national electric car program, and some of the teams here today are also part of the electric car team.”
The ministry is currently working with the country’s top four engineering schools to design an electric car and a gas-electric hybrid car for possible future mass production. Nuh said the first completed design for the electric car is expected in August, with a prototype to be built as early as next year.
“Our budget for this research and development program is Rp 100 million until 2014,” he said.
The schools involved in the national electric car program include the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), the University of Indonesia, the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya, and Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta.
Student teams from these universities are also taking part in next month’s Shell Eco-Marathon Asia event, to be held at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.
They gathered on Wednesday at the State Palace along with teams from other local universities taking part in the challenge to present their cars to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Peter Voser, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.
A total of 18 cars from nine Indonesian universities have registered for the event, where students must design and build cars that can travel the longest distance on the least amount of fuel.
While some of the cars presented ran on gasoline, others were designed to run on biodiesel, ethanol and even hydrogen. All are touted to travel between 200 kilometers and 300 kilometers on a liter of liquid fuel or equivalent.
Because they are designed for fuel economy rather than performance, the cars typically have a top speed of just 30 kilometers an hour.
This year’s competition will take place from July 4 to 7 at Sepang, near Kuala Lumpur, and will feature 140 teams from 18 countries.