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.