So, what’s the Roadie all about and why is aircraft manufacturer, Australian LightWing, building a light weight 2 seat electric motor vehicle ?
Howie and Nick Hughes, backed up by long time Australian LightWing manufacturing engineer Terry Donaldson, are firmly of the opinion that the green revolution will be the dominant industry for this century. Anything- any process, product or service that saves, reduces or stores carbon will be a winner. BUT, as CEO Howie Hughes states, “that does not mean we believe all the proposed or projected Climate Change doomsday scenarios. The Roadie is being developed primarily because of our companies dedication to efficiency in transportation in general, and in this case, road transport in particular, but also on the off chance that the extreme predictions of climate change could just be real, we would like our company to be a leader, not a follower.”
At the time of writing, the Roadie is growing in the corner of the front factory. Anyone calling in will be made most welcome, to view the futuristic 2 seat vehicle and its associated drive train, suspension, Li-Iron batteries and tooling. Occasionally the Roadie has to take second place to aircraft manufacture, the companies core activity— check out www.lightwing.com.au .
Of course, 2 additional objectives of the project are to explore the possibility of electric power for aircraft use and also how do we make a “roadable” aircraft, that is, an aircraft that is capable of folding its wings and driving on the roads, this has been achieved in the US so why not here ?
CEO Howie Hughes explains…. Its all about range, electric cars are all about getting the most energy out of a very small power supply. Compare the energy in a cup of petrol to even the best battery, weight for weight it’s a ratio of about 10 to one in favour of the cup of petrol. To have serious range, an electric car must be very light, like about half the weight of an average small car but it must also half the aerodynamic drag. Thinking about a car like the diesel Ford Focus, its propelled by an efficient diesel motor with a turbo etc., the car will produces on average 2 kg of carbon per 10 km. If you took this efficient diesel out and replaced it with lets say a 40kw electric motor, then the vehicle will produce a similar amount of carbon per kilometre if its batteries are charged from the Australian grid BUT if its owner also has solar or wind generation, then that car / owner can have carbon neutral transport. The point is that because of its innovative design, the Roadie will use less energy and go a lot further at less overall cost.
So, when will the Roadie take its first drive ?
We are taking orders during 2012. Expressions of interest only at this time,
Follow the Roadie’s progress on the net at www.lightwing.com.au call any time (02) 6686 8658
Or visit our factory at 176 Southern Cross Drive, Ballina Airport .
Just because its electric, doesn’t mean it has to be boring
You can view images of the Roadie drawn using Maya movie making software created by Rex Forward. This shows the front wheel covers and mud-guards with indicators mounted on top. Powerful LED type headlights, are mounted in the rear-view mirrors, these mirrors or their nacelle will also hold the pivot points for the doors which will hinge vertically up about this point. The Roadie will have both a 100V DC power supply, but also a 12V dc supply for the vehicles electronics.
The Roadie features a toughened laminated glass windscreen.
The Nose cone of the Roadie opens to allow the battery pack tray to slide in or out through the tunnel that runs the full length of the passenger compartment. The 30 3.6V cells batteries can be swapped or simply removed for periodic service. The vehicle will be totally self contained, carrying its own charger.
The Range of the Roadie with one 10 kw hr pack is estimated to be between 130 and 160 kilometres but with 2 packs, it is expected to be 250 km. 240V charging will take about 6 hours from an exhausted pack and 2 hours using 415V, so, what makes the Roadie work.
Our CNC marching center uses Logitrol and Mac3 software to cut the various components for the Roadie and also produce the 3D shapes that have been used to fabricate the GRP molds for the Roadie’s unique aerodynamic light weight chassis, this machine center and others where developed specifically to form a part of the “organic engineering chain which we have perfected over the past 25 years and than has successfully developed about 10 unique aircraft designs.
A turbo diesel powered Roadie may be available in 2012, watch this space.
Like all the designs that have come from Hughes Engineering located at the Ballina Byron Gateway airport, these include about 10 different aircraft types including the latest super efficient carbon fibre SP-6000 6 seater, the Roadie has “evolved” through a unique process we call “Organic Engineering”. This process permits a rapid transition from concept to real product and we use the latest in PC software and computer aided CNC machining, sounds flash eh ?
Well its not, the CNC machine we built ourselves and cost no more than a few thousand dollars, the driving software is also very simple. We have leveraged the brain power of a unique group of students from Delft university in Holland, these students have been coming to Australia for the past 3 years to work on this project, we swap youthful enthusiasm and knowledge , giving back hands on design expertise and training in our companies unique brand on “Organic Engineering” it’s a great trade-off.
30 of these lightweight (2.5 kg) batteries will provide the Roadies power train with 10 kw hours, enough with average use, to power the vehicle for up to 3 hours depending on use, regenerative braking will be tested soon using an AC brushless motor of similar power.
The Roadie project has many unique attributes, its teardrop or tadpole shape comes from nature, Design cad, a $100 drawing program is used with other more sophisticated cad programs, to generate the body profiles while a US bunch of hardware and software cuts most of the components.
The Roadie is predicted to travel 135 km to 165km using 5 – 8 kw hrs of electricity, this will result in the Roadie generating 0.5 kg of carbon per 10 km. This is a saving compared to a diesel car of about 400%. The downside is that the Roadie has only 2 or 3 seats whereas a diesel motorcar can have up to 5 seats, however diesel is hard for a city dweller to manufacture whereas electricity can easily be generated from solar panels on the roof or from the wind.
If the Roadie is charged from a home solar charging plant, the carbon contribution will be almost zero except for the carbon created in maintaining the vehicle, its manufacture and final recycling.
So why is the Roadie 4 times more efficient than its diesel counterpart ?
The answer is easy, the Roadie weighs half the weight of a normal car (estimated 400 kg), the rolling resistance is proportional to the weight, also the Roadie ie has less than half the aerodynamic drag of a normal car….
Result = Roadie efficiency = x 4 that of a normal 4 seat car.
On a per seat basis, efficiency is a little less.
The Roadie will have some limitations with its range of lets say 150 km to 250 km (with 2 battery packs). The Roadie will not tow your boat to the boat ramp on the weekend and unless you swap batteries, it will not be ideally suited to interstate driving BUT it will be perfectly suited to driving to and from work with range to spare, weekend driving on return trips of 150 to 250 km and town deliveries where charging is available en-route, perfect !
Q. Why doesn’t adding twice the batteries simply double the range ?
A….the battery pack weighs about 90 kg so 2 packs weigh 180 kg and unfortunately, the batteries don’t burn off weight as does power from fossil fuel so the vehicle is heavier.
Q … what is the cost of an extra battery pack?
A.. About $4,500. at present rates, this can be expected to drop as battery efficiency improves and more people drive electric cars.
Q… what will be the projected cost of the Roadie?
A… Unknown at this stage, motor cars are one of the cheapest consumer items available with a per kg cost as low as $10 per kg, good steak costs more than this but we estimate the Roadie will be available for less than $30,000
Q …Why 3 wheels ?
A… by removing a wheel from the rear end, we remove about 200 kg from the vehicle weight, weight and aerodynamic drag are critical factors in determining the efficiency of an electric vehicle. If the Roadie had 4 wheels its weight would increase to about 600 to 700 kg with a substantial reduction in range.
Q… what about stability with 3 wheels compared to 4 ?
A… if your worried about stability, Google T-Rex 3 wheel car 5th gear. On this site you will see the 5th gear team flogging the 3 wheel T-Rex around their airport in the UK, now this vehicle is a little different to the Roadie in that it has a 200 hp motorcycle engine, not a 10 kw electric engine but the design and handling will be the same, no problems with stability at all because the Roadie has a very low centre of gravity and low aerodynamic drag.
Q… what about noise ?
A.. Most noise in a normal car comes from forcing air between the underside of the car (which is usually a horror show in terms of pipes, chassis parts etc) and the road, causing huge amounts of aerodynamic drag and noise. In this area, the Roadie is clean, clean, clean ie very clean so little noise is expected at all. Cities populated by Roadie type vehicles would be way nicer places to live particularly near freeways.
Q.. How fast will the Roadie be off the mark and what will be the top speed ?
A….The DC motor has maximum power at zero revolutions so it will have excellent acceleration aided by its light weight, top speed will be about 100 km /hr
Q… how much room is there in the rear compartment ?
A… enough for a couple of children, shopping or a set of golf clubs.
The Roadie drive train is shown above, its so simple and light.
A 10 kw DC motor is coupled to a BMW rear bike swing axle.
This rear axle has been chosen because of its one sided rear wheel mount. Remember, the Roadie is part motor bike and part car so changing a tyre must be made easy. All the Roadie wheels are the same and a spare wheel will also be carried in the rear compartment along with a small jack, wheel brace etc.
All the suspension will feature spring over shocks which are Australian made and adjustable and yes, the Roadie could go off road with minor modifications, just imagine a totally eco-friendly car rally with no noise pollution whatsoever !
A loan wind generator stands on the ridge line behind our town of Lennox Head and we have talked at length with the owner of this relatively small (diam about 10m) wind generator, it was imported from Europe and is ideally suited to home ownership, it is quiet and very efficient and provides more than enough power to run both a home and a car like the Roadie, the price tag is close to $75k however, its for this reason Hughes Engineering is developing its own wind generator based on the iconic Comet or Southern Cross windmill, this 2 to 3 KW unit will be available for less than $10k . We project / hope.. our gene will also find a market in 3rd world countries also.