The Future of Electric Cars in Australia Debate

An upcoming event: “The Future of Electric Cars in Australia” an Engineers Australia presentation by Ashley Sanders from Mitsubishi on Wednesday 13th March 6pm, in Newcastle has sparked a debate on electric vehicle design and cost.

Ballina based Hughes Group’s CEO Howie Hughes disagrees with Ashley Sanders comments on electric vehicle design. “Mr Sanders is coming at the problem of electric vehicles from entirely the wrong angle” said Howie. “We have taken a totally different approach in that we have designed and built a prototype electric vehicle based, firstly, on aviation design techniques and secondly, on what is practical to build in Australia given the initially small demand for energy efficient vehicles, products that will reduce carbon emissions.”

There are two issues here. Most people believe the jury is still out on global warming and it will not be until we have cyclones or these devastating floods every week, that there will be real action taken by Governments or private companies. By real action, Howie means actually producing products that make a real difference.

Secondly, to simply remove a petrol engine from a small car and replace it with an electric motor and batteries, is all but pointless in terms of reducing green house gas if the car is still charged from coal fired power. The design parameters Howie employs includes a totally different set of values which include anaerodynamic body for the vehicle, ultra light weight, regenerative breaking, a home based solar charging station, the elimination of many heavy and unnecessary mechanical bits and pieces and a totally different approach to styling and design. Of course, all this will be totally foreign to a company like Mitsubishi who do most of their design based on the opinions of focus groups and market research, Hughes Engineering, on the other hand, employs a more organic approach (that of  ”form follows function” ) where the end use of the vehicle has been permitted to define almost all of the design parameters.

The end result is what the company calls the Road-E, (see  a three wheel, two seat long range electric vehicle which is more of a cross between a light aircraft and a super hot motor bike.

The Road-E’s styling has yet to be fully developed however when in production, the vehicle will be a real head turner, unlike any other vehicle on the market and the price, even in limited production, about $30,000should cover this simple vehicle.

Hughes Engineering has been successfully producing 2, 4 and, in the near future,  6 seat light aircraft for the past 28 years.

The Road-E in construction The Future of Cars in Australia


The ROADIE Electric Vehicle; designed by a leading Australian Aircraft Designer and Manufacturer, to be appearing at the Newcastle Electric Vehicle Festival from August 16

Hughes Engineering is a light aircraft manufacturer based in Ballina, in Northern New South Wales. The company CEO, Howard Hughes, designed and manufactures the “Australian LightWing” aircraft. Using the lightweight engineering techniques gained for light aircraft, the company decided to produce a project electric motor vehicle, called “The Roadie”. This vehicle has been prototyped at the Ballina manufacturing plant with the objective being to produce a lightweight vehicle capable of 200 km range with two seats and three wheels.

The Roadie will be aimed at the recreational market, including motorbike and car enthusiasts, as having three wheels allows the vehicle to tilt as it rolls into a corner, as would a motorcycle. There is also a growing demand for electric vehicles in Australia ’s mining industry where diesel vehicles will be severely restricted for underground use in the near future and as diesel fumes have recently been classed as carcinogenic, the use of electric vehicles in a variety of industrial applications, including mining, will become more common as time goes on.

Why Electric? Our concern for the reduction in the availability of fossil fuels – no. We are not passionate about green principals or climate change. We are simply concerned that as fossil fuels become scarce, their cost will increase, and the availability will be subject to the whims of those making decisions in Amsterdam and Paris.

Howie’s philosophy on electric cars is a simple “Keep the vehicle light, keep it aerodynamically clean and keep it simple”. Accordingly, the Roadie has a single rear wheel and whilst this type of vehicle may be associated with the various antics of Mr Bean and his rather comical Reliant Regal 3 wheel van, the Roadie has a very low centre of gravity and the single wheel is located at the rear of the car. Eliminating one wheel in the case of rear wheel drive-trains, removes the differential, which is a very heavy piece of engineering, it also eliminates associated springs, brakes, and support structure, etc. resulting in saving at least 200kgs in weight. The 3-seat Roadie has an Empty weight of around 400 kilograms or approximately a third of an equivalent small petrol engine-powered vehicle.

The Roadie’s battery consists of a 10-KVA lithium iron battery pack with 30 3-volt cells distributed through the middle of the vehicle. The battery pack can be removed and exchanged if need be, however the normal charging procedure suggested by Hughes Engineering will be that the Roadie is used for commuting during the day then charged overnight. With a range of around 200 kilometres, this will adequately satisfy most city commuters and the minimal cost per charge of about $2 will be most welcome considering the cost of conventional fuel is set to increase into the future.

Top speed of the Roadie should be around 100 kilometres per hour maximum and the aerodynamic drag of the car or the amount of force or energy required to propel the fuselage through the air, will be approximately one fifth of a square meter, or, less than a quarter that of a normal commuter vehicle. Driving the Roadie will be similar to driving an automatic car. The Roadie has three disk brakes with a handbrake on the rear disk. Power for the headlights and ancillary equipment comes from the 90-volt dc battery supply.

The Hughes Engineering “Roadie” Electric Vehicle (with expected completion for road tests in 2012) will be appearing at the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival (an initiative of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the University of Newcastle) in Newcastle on August 16-26th 2012.

The Roadie ~ Electric Car ~ Update

Our Roadie Electric Car has reached the point where its time to fit internals including seats dashboard etc.

Terry and Nick have so far done a great job however the seats the selection of seats was limited to those available from the larger after market automotive supplies and we found that these were all far too large to fit in to the Roadie.

At the same time we have always had a demand for a folding seat in the SP2000 and the SP4000. More so the SP4000 in other words a seat that fold forwards and allows access to the rear seat area for either baggage in the case of the two seater or people in the case of the four seater.

So some time ago we bit the bullet and started to develop fibreglass tooling for this seat. Terry made the first fibreglass mouldings and since then a couple of changes have been made resulting in a very neat pair of mouldings for the base and the back.

The seat flops forward as you would expect , its all been a bit a of a headache its all been very fun to develop this very complex piece of fibreglass tooling which consists of four fibreglass moulds.

More pictures on the way!

Love Soda Water? Save Plastic Bottles.

On collecting a 10-kilo carbon dioxide cylinder from our local BOC supplier the other day I did a quick calculation as to how many litres of fizzy water this cylinder would produce. A very interesting calculation as my guess is about a thousand dollars worth.

A bottle of soda water from a supermarket will set you back around two dollars a litre and at a guess 15 kilos of carbon dioxide at a cost of about 50 dollars makes each bottle worth just a few cents. But that’s not the point of this Great Green Idea, althought you can expect to save about a thousand dollars on your fizzy soft drinks you will also save hundreds of kilos in plastic bottles.

Overall you would have to have rocks in your head not to adopt this fantastic idea which is based on a simple soda stream refilling system combined  with a simple little fitting (Email us for more info) which allows you to refill  the soda stream bottles.

Even without this fitting your bottle of soda water will still only cost a fraction of the retail shelf cost from the retailer but if you refill your own CO2 bottles the cost is reduced to almost zero… Well to about 2 cents a litre.  Compared to two dollars a litre for off the shelf products.

Now that’s Great!

Little Plastic Bottles

How can i possibly live my life without leaving a strew of these little plastic bottles after me everywhere I go?

I was recently lucky enough to be able to fly over to the USA from Australia for a holiday, and thus I journeyed, as much as I could, staying at places via the website “Airbnb“; which helps people stay in other peoples homes- a cheaper and somewhat greener alternative to hotels and thus, I could leave less of a trail of those little shampoo and conditioner bottles in every town I visited. And it was great; if Airbnb need a spokesperson for any reason, I’m all theirs.

And so, on I journeyed, with a delightful stopover in a momentarily very rainy Fiji, and as I nursed my weak travelers stomach, tenderly navigating the last part of my journey, from one side of the island to another, I was overcome with the deepest sadness as perfect beach after perfect beach, school yard after school yard, village after village, I was watching Fiji stream by, seeing her beautiful landscape slowly fill up with a wasteland of plastic bottles, plastic bags and general plastic crap. Large and small.

As all of our countries (Australia, USA, Canada, Europe, Where are you from?) slowly wrap our heads around the idea that suffocating landfill is a terrible reality, and slowly gather our momentum towards recycling, reducing landfill and terribly ingenious ideas towards reducing the use of plastic bags and what not, our little delightful neighbors, fall by the way side…

Tropical islands, covered in resorts, equipped to offer the perfect 5 star supreme get away, are facing the increasing face of not actually having that recycling plant the rest of us could probably find within a few miles from most of our houses.

As big fat cane toads slugged on by, my initial feeling of being delighted to stop over in Fiji quickly became overshadowed by just feeling bad. Feeling sorry. Feeling inconceivably sorry that once again a bunch of holiday makers and money makers have raped yet another pristine environment.

I have no Great Green Idea to save this world. But in my dream state the airlines and cruise ships (ah hem – Pacific Air) that fly and boat us all in and out, invest a bazillion dollars into a small and extremely functional recycling plant, that turns the volcano of mini shampoo and conditioner bottles into fake pearl necklaces and gardening hats. Richard Branson somehow implements some kind of strategy to save the islands of our tropical dreams. He owns one doesn’t he? Surely he understands.

This may not be a great green idea… this may be more a great green question mark.

But I am finding that the WordPress community of green thinkers seems to be a growing and intelligent bunch, so tell me, what are your thoughts?



A Good Idea Gone Wrong.

Nothing infuriates me more than a good idea gone horribly wrong.

And as I see the current generation of electric motor vehicles coming on to the market, it fills me with absolute horror that this is one idea which is literally driving itself straight off the rails.

To me, the entire concept of having electric motor vehicles is to:

Save the  environment;

Save carbon; and

Save on noise and air pollution in our cities.

However, if you simply remove the petrol engine from a standard motor vehicle and replace  it with an electric motor and batteries there is almost no saving to the environment whatsoever as the electricity, particularly in the case of Australia,  is still being generated by filthy coal powered stations.

Cars on the road today are aerodynamic nightmares. It’s like driving a brick. Look out your window – you’ll see bricks with wheels. Heavy, angular, made-out-of-the-heaviest-materials BRICKS. This is justified by the term “safety”. You want a big, strong, heavy car around you in case of accidents and mishaps yeah? So, don’t get us wrong, we, in NO WAY, mean to backseat the complete requirement of safety in vehicles, (and this argument is supported by our award winning, safest aircraft in Australia – Australian LightWing Aircraft)  – but safety does not have to be the expense of efficiency.

If we, as a society, are desperately trying to reduce carbon emissions, we need to stop expelling exorbitant amounts of energy to push “bricks” around, and instead, use just the energy required to propel extremely safe, and extremely aerodynamic vehicles.

How is this possible? Don’t look at bricks. Look to light and safe, well designed aircraft.

Our concept with ‘The Roadie‘ is to create a super light weight and extremely aerodynamic vehicle which is efficient both in terms of its aerodynamics and its power usage, therefor cutting emissions drastically — by hopefully up to 70 to 80 percent, using electric power for  the vehicles propulsion .

Your complete safety is provided by the lightweight, quality, structurally tested, welded, aircraft-grade, chrome moly steel AERODYNAMIC safety frame that encloses the driver and passengers in a protective cocoon.

To conduct a totally Green Car Rally would in my opinion be the ultimate achievement in this region (The Northern Rivers of New South Wales – Australia) and I would  hope that all of those that have opposed the ‘Speed on Tweed Classic Car Race‘ would welcome, with open arms, a car rally held using super quiet, clean, electric cars powered on the basis of having negative or zero carbon impact on the environment.

The Roadie:

Designed By Australian LightWing.

Fully Sustainable Road Transport System

To create a fully sustainable personal road transport system, there are two ways to go.

Firstly, you can charge your electric car using standard  battery charging system form 240 volt power and this is a relatively  simple straight forward process. However, to operate  your electric vehicle in a a completely sustainable manner, our concept is to use a  combination of both wind and solar  power to charge a bank of 120 volt DC batteries, then connect these to the 90  volt lithium volt batteries  located in out  electric vehicle, which we call: “The Roadie“, and charge the vehicle without using any mains  power at all.

Of course, when it hasn’t been either windy or sunny, for a lengthy period of time, which will happen, The Roadie will also incorporate a 240 volt ac power charging system. However, this shouldn’t occur too often. Particularly here in the Northern Rivers (of New South Wales, Australia), where  it’s always either windy or sunny.

So, if our system works as planned, our plan is to market the entire package as just that, a Sustainable Road Transport Package.

The Roadie will be capable of a range up to, or between, 150 and 200 km on a single charge and the coast to the driver in terms of immediate fuel costs will be zero. Of course, The Roadie requires batteries  which have to be replaced from time to time and also our wind and solar generating system, also requires batteries. However, with cycle times measured in many thousands, the coats per kilometer will still  be acceptable, compared to a petrol driven vehicle of a similar size, but that’s not  the point of this exercise.

The point of the exercise is to asses whether this concept is either practical or simply requires too much effort, investment and work.

We plan to store the solar and wind generating electric power in normal lead acid deep cycle batteries which should  cost somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000, whereas the more expensive and far lighter lithium iron batteries which will  be located along the middle of The Roadie’s body will cost  upwards of $5,000 with a maximum  of $10,000, depending on the range of the vehicle required by the owner.

The Roadie will also have a backup 12 volt system to power lights, radio indicators etc.

If our system works and it looks even remotely viable, the next hurdle to overcome will be that of attaching a reasonable sized wind generator to the average suburban house and it’s for this reason  that we have selected the ‘Comet’ or ‘Southern Cross’ style windmill as the primary source of energy for the generating systems.

We have hopefully added to the  efficiency of our chosen Comet Windmill by the creation of curved wingtips, similar to those found on current  generation of both light and commercial  aircraft. The 18 inch blade fan with a diameter of 10 feet has been increased to an overall diameter of 12 feet and its hoped that this will give us a total power of  somewhere between 1 and 3 kilowatts.

Sustainable Road Transport

To add somewhat to the simplicity of the system we have elected to  mount the generators at the bottom of the tower rather than at the top, which is usually the case. We have  a small right angle gearbox mounted at the top of the tower attached to the 12 foot diameter fan blades. This transfers  the energy to a rotating shaft which is then coupled to a net work of four 24 volt generators, located at the bottom of the tower. These generators can be both electrically and mechanically switched in and out depending on the wind speed.

Windmill Alterations

Occupational Health and Safety issues involved in climbing a 30 foot  windmill tower, and working on  electric equipment dictated  that the best place for the generators was at the bottom of the tower. Accordingly, we have had to rethink the method of  orientating the windmill head relative to balance both the torque from the generator and also the rotational direction of the fan.

Watch this space as developments of this aspect proceed.

So why the combination of wind and solar?

The answer to this question lies in our  experience of weather conditions  here in the Northern Rivers where it is literally either blowing a gale and sunny, or blowing a gale and raining, but rarely is it overcast with no wind at all. If the objective of this system is to provide personal transport with a maximum efficiency  and reliability then we feel that the combination of wind and solar is the way to go.

Particularly if wind generation can be achieved without the  expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars as is currently the case. Once again, watch this space and the project progresses!