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 www.road-e.com.au)  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

PRESS RELEASE – The ROADIE

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.