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

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!

The ‘Roadie’ Electric Car Project develops……


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 .


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 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.


Li-Iron Batteries.

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.

Organic Waste Collection Services….

I have just received a super friendly and slightly confusing letter from my local council, stating our area is going to start an organics and garden waste collection service because our local dump is quickly filling, and we need to do something about it.

I agree.

I am very glad that this service will be starting up. I guess….


The letter states the service will cost $360 whether I request to have 1 bin, or 6 bins for waste collection each week.

I would like to suggest to any other residential dweller in the area, instead of spending that quarterly $360.00, on and on for the rest of our lives, to hop on down to the local hardware store and invest in a worm farm and a composter. And never throw out anything organic ever again.

Worms eat just about anything and everything, and the things the don’t (onion peel, citrus rind, garlic) and all your garden waste- goes into the composter.

My garden is SMALL – it’s about 10 paces across and 4 paces wide.

In that space I recycle, compost, tend to my worms, grow eggplant, basil, parsley, strawberries, lettuce and lemongrass.

Why pay for the Council to take away something that can grow your food? Gives nutrients to your soil? Give nutrients to your soul?

I understand that restaurants throw away so much food, and I wonder why that is so easily excused?

Why not have that alley way down the back made into a herb garden?

Is it really too hard?


I would like to thank Hungry Beast on the ABC, for another golden piece of information that keeps me motivated….

“A quarter of the food wasted in the first world could feed all the people starving in the Third World.”*

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!

Save money and stay hydrated!

Remember the old soda siphons?

Those quaint little glass bottles usually encased in a wire mesh cage, no doubt in case of explosion.

Well way back when, these were the primary method of getting fizzy water for either soft drinks or to mix with spirits.

Bring Back The Soda Siphon!!

>>> Fast forward 50 or 60 years and most fizzy drinks  come in aluminum or plastic containers, which are now found to add considerably to the immense quantities of waste generated by our non green society.


Fortunately a company  called Soda Stream, which is based in the UK has  done exactly that with a nifty dispenser, complete with a large  carbon dioxide cylinder and a number of plastic  recyclable bottles.

Some years back I purchased my first Soda Stream dispenser and haven’t looked back since, making no doubt tonnes and tonnes of fizzy water at a very  low cost; at initially  5 cents a bottle thanks to the  large and also recyclable  CO2 container. However, one day, on a trip to Kmart, in order to recycle my carbon dioxide cylinder, I was told that the cylinders weren’t available. Damn, I thought.

After that  thought- came “I’ll do it myself”.


After a trip to the local plumbing shop, I was able to produce a fitting which, when attached  to a bulk carbon dioxide cylinder, was easily able to fill my Soda Stream containers.

Fresh Sparkling Water!

Thus reducing  the cost of a litre of soda water to less than one cent.



The cost was already pretty low, at about 5 cents, using the standard soda siphon Soda Stream, recyclable CO2 containers, but, being intent on reducing costs, I produced my own system.

If anybody would like to avail themselves to this simple fitting, in can be screwed to any bulk  carbon dioxide bottle, I use a bottle which weighs around 15 kilos, which sits outside my kitchen door and lasts  for around 6 months, filling some hundreds of litres of water with CO2 bubbles.

The fitting is  available from Australian Lightwing. Call (02) 6686 8658.

Of course, you will need to purchase a bulk  CO2 cylinder for around $40.00, and also  pay the annual rental on the cylinder, but rest assuered even with these costs taken into account, the cost per litre is absolutely minimal.