Oppo Review: 2015 TU/ecomotive EM-03 Nova

I can hear you guys thinking ‘what the hell is that’, well I guess you will know by the end of this article. Lets start with what car design is focused on: designing a car which is optimal in a certain situation. Most of the times this focus is speed, comfort or economy, or sometimes a combination of some of these things. However almost never a car is built which is optimal in almost all situations, or at least can be changed easily to be optimal for all situations.

Full disclosure: TU/ecomotive wanted me to drive this car so badly, I asked if I could join the team in early 2014, design parts for the car in 2014 and build it in 2015. Due to this the review might be a bit subjective.


Oppo, meet Nova, worlds first truly modular car, which was designed and built by a group of Engineering students, including me, over the course of the previous academic year. The whole concept of the car is based around it being modular, therefore almost everything in the car is changeable so it can be optimal for multiple situations.

Exterior - 8/10

The modern styling, makes the car really stand out, even in the gray colour it has, which is Seat Pirineos Grey. Although the car is really small, only 3.50 meters long, 1.30 meters wide, and 1.30 high, the design does not give the car weird proportions, but gives it a very sporty, very car like styling. A unique thing about the exterior is that all panels, made of a biofibre which is hemp fibre based and is 80% biodegradable, can be easily removed, and be replaced by different parts, in for instance a different design or colour, we didn’t really execute the swapping part due to cost of an extra set of panels. My favourite design feature of it is the are the rims, which I designed myself, with help of a professional designer, both design and structure wise. They only have a weight of 2 kg a piece, while being able to take the load they need to take.

The best picture I have of the dashboard, here with the General Counsel of our sponsor NXP, Guido Dierick sitting in Nova.

Interior - 6/10

In the interior the lines sharp lines of the car are continued in the dashboard, which nicely ties the design together. The seating is arranged like in the McLaren F1, with a centrally placed drivers seat, with two passengers seat located next to and behind it. This means the car is able to transport 3 people in relative comfort, since the passengers can put their legs next to the drivers seat. It’s not the largest of interiors, but given the small size, it does make good use of the available space, with the driver being quite far forward. A unique feature of the interior is that the rear seats can be easily removed, for when shopping needs to be done, to create more cargo space.


Toys/Technology - 7/10

There is an endless amount of possible toys, at the moment it is equipped with a wireless charger, and a digital board computer, however it can also be equipped with mirror cameras, a infotainment system and many other options, since all these toys can be clicked in and out of the dashboard.


As for technology, it is equipped with 3 modular battery packs, and 2 DC motors giving it around 10 kW of peak power. Giving it a projected range of 100-150 km. And a proven (converted) fuel efficiency of around 1 liter of petrol every 350 km.

Here you see one of the packs on the chassis of a Tesla Model S, see any difference in size?

Audio - 7/10

Very silent, so good if you’re into that, bad if you aren’t, just the vague sound of a pair of DC motors whirring away in the background.


Acceleration - 7/10

Not bad, which is most likely due to the DC motors being connected to 1:3 reducers, which give them 3 times the torque, and the low weight (around 350 kg). No measured 0-100 kmh time figures are known, since it does not reach that, however it should be faster than my Twingo in short sprints.


Brakes - 8/10

The brakes are nothing short of excellent, being a system combined out of bike rotors and calipers with plenty of stopping power and very short pedal travel due to the direct connection to a Wilwood mastercylinder and the bottom hinging brake pedal(because race car). The brakes feel very responsive and the car literally stops on a dime.


Ride - 6/10

The ride is quite harsh, due to the suspension parts being based of of a Renault Twizy, which is about 100 kg heavier, meaning the spring damper combination is on the stiff side. However custom McPherson struts could easily have solved this.


Gearbox - 7/10

Well, I don’t even know if you can call a fixed reduction a gearbox, since the forward and reverse is achieved by changing the current direction through the motors. But the 1:3 reduction gives a good a mount of extra torque at the cost of a top speed of only around 90 km/h.

Nova at the 2015 AutoRAI, the only Dutch motor show.

Handling - 6/10

A turning circle from hell, due to the combination of 16" rims, a widened Twizy steeringrack and not quite Ackermann-steering. Further it handles corners without much roll due to the stiff springs and dampers.


Value - inf/10

I can’t tell how much it has cost, nor how much it is worth, however the educational value has been high to the whole team, and the same holds for the promotional value for the sponsors.


Total: 60/100(90)

It’s a great car, which has learnt all of us a lot, we went in a unknowing kids, and came out as 20 year-olds with industry experience in designing and building a prototype car. The end product is not fully what we set out to achieve, but it very had to reach levels of finish, when you need to learn how to do stuff at the same time, therefore I did not discuss fit and finish or quality in any of the parts, since it is not super, however that cannot be expected from a group of students.

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