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Solar racers on display at this year’s Melbourne International Motor Show

Posted by Car Geek on January 25, 2008

Two of Australia’s most successful solar-powered vehicles will be on display at this year’s Melbourne International Motor Show. The Aurora Vehicle Association will be displaying its original solar vehicle, “Christine”, as well as the latest model, Aurora 101, which came in third at the 2007 World Solar Challenge.

Aurora 101, image courtesy Aurora Vehicle Association.

The Aurora 101 has a drag coefficient of less than 0.1 and last month covered a distance of 1590 km on just 5.8 kWh of electricity from its solar panels, worth only 85 cents if taken from the grid. Its older sibling, Christine, set a world distance record for an electric vehicle on a single battery charge on the same day, covering 811.6 km in less than 16 hours.

Both vehicles will be on display for the duration of the Motor Show, from the 29th of February to the 10th of March, and will be in the Motor Show Cavalcade on the 27th of February if you want to see them in action.

(Source: Melbourne International Motor Show [pdf])

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Posted in Electric vehicles, Solar | 2 Comments »

UniSA develops Trev, a renewable energy vehicle

Posted by Car Geek on January 24, 2008

Stories like this are what this site is really all about. If you were paying close attention to last year’s World Solar Challenge, you might have seen this vehicle competing in the Greenfleet Technology class; if not, take this opportunity to familiarise yourself with “Trev”.

Image from the University of South Australia.

The two-seater renewable energy vehicle, developed by the University of South Australia, was designed with efficiency in mind, using just one fifth of the energy of a standard vehicle. The three-wheeled electric car is powered by 45kg of lithium ion batteries, giving it a 150 km range and a top speed of 120 km/h. Most of the vehicle’s efficiency comes from its light weight, sitting at just 300 kg on the scales thanks to its aluminium honeycomb and fibreglass body. Future models are expected to include a solar panel on the roof, much like the conceptually similar Aptera Typ-1.

One point that is important to note is that, being a three-wheeler, Trev does not fall under the category of standard cars, but rather motorcycles. That, of course, makes it one of the safest, most efficient and most comfortable motorcycles on the road, but you’ll still need a motorbike licence to drive it. The prototype is expected to be registered and on the road in 2008, according to UniSA, but you’re not likely to be able to buy one just yet – at least, not until someone picks up the idea to develop commercially.

(Source: UniSA)

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Posted in Electric vehicles | 2 Comments »

Adelaide home to the Tindo solar-powered bus

Posted by Car Geek on December 15, 2007

The Tindo solar electric bus. Image from Adelaide City Council.

Public transport doesn’t get much greener than this. New Zealand company Designline International have developed an electric bus, which is currently being operated in Adelaide and is recharged using a BP Solar recharging station.

The bus, known as “Tindo” (the local Aboriginal word for sun), has zero emissions (as you’d expect from an electric vehicle), a range of 200 km and seats up to 42 passengers in air-conditioned comfort. Even better, the bus is entirely free to ride, as it is part of the Adelaide Connector Bus service. Power is provided from the largest solar power system in the state, pumping 70,000 kWh of electricity back into the grid annually, which will be installed at Adelaide Central bus station.

If anyone in Adelaide gets a chance to take a ride on the Tindo, drop us a line via e-mail or in the comments – we’d love to hear about your experiences!

(Source: Adelaide City Council via ABG)

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Posted in Buses, Electric vehicles, Solar | 14 Comments »

New Zealand conflicted on electric cars, seeks biofuels and hydrogen vehicles

Posted by Car Geek on October 13, 2007

New Zealand is well on its way to becoming one of the most environmentally friendly nations on the planet, especially if its government has its way. The small nation has a plan to half its transport emissions by 2040 by using biofuels, hybrids and electric vehicles, according to an energy strategy released by Prime Minister Helen Clark. The government hopes that battery-electric vehicles will make up 60 per cent of the market share by 2040, and that hydrogen-powered vehicles make up 25 per cent by 2050. The move is aided by New Zealand’s already largely clean electricity, 65 per cent of which is produced by renewable means (a figure they want to increase to 90 per cent by 2025).

However, the media and private companies aren’t quite as sold on electric cars as the government just yet. EVs have copped considerable criticism from New Zealand’s Dog and Lemon Guide, an influential car magazine. Author Clive Matthew-Wilson attacked the cars for being high cost, range-limited and in constant need of recharging. The author also said that the light-weight materials used for EVs such as carbon fibre, also used in a number of conventional vehicle components such as spoilers, were expensive to make and “incredibly toxic”. The comments (however questionable they may be) have prompted Meridian Energy, a power company that was planning to import a small number of electric cars for a trial, to review the plan, though it currently has no intentions to scrap the trial entirely.

NZ Energy Minister, David Parker, has rejected the claims of Dog & Lemon, saying that much of the technology going into electric vehicles is already used in conventional cars and that the energy used to power them would be largely renewable.

“The Prime Minister recently announced a target of 90 per cent renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2025, so we are set to see amounts of renewable electricity available increasing over time,” he said.

“New Zealand is fortunate to have so much renewable energy available at economic prices; the uptake of technologies such as electric cars will see an increasingly sustainable transport fleet.”

(Sources: NZ Herald, The Age)

Posted in Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Hydrogen, Neighbouring endeavours | 3 Comments »

Solar cars get ready to race

Posted by Car Geek on September 30, 2007

Solar car in action in NT. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. The World Solar Challenge is celebrating 20 years this year, and continues to go from strength to strength with renewed interest in sustainable transport, as well as continued improvements in technology that have seen the speeds of these vehicles more than double in the two decades that the competition has been running.

The event, in which teams design and build a vehicle capable of running purely on solar power and race them for 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide across some of Australia’s harshest environments, will run from October 21 to 28 and attracts teams from high schools, universities and research groups around the world. Sixty-one teams from twenty countries will compete this year, with the event expanding to promote sustainable combustion-engine vehicles in its Greenfleet Technology Class as well as prototype experimental vehicles, such as the University of South Australia’s “Trev” electric vehicle and the H2Solar hybrid vehicle from Japan’s Team JonaSun.

The steady increase in solar panel efficiency over the last two decades has helped the competition, with event director Chris Selwood saying that the solar panels being used are twice as efficient as they were when the event started.

“Certainly 20 years ago, most photovoltaic cells were in the realms of experimental devices,” he said. “Winning speed was 67km/h average in the first event.

“At the last event in 2005, the winning team averaged 103km/h and clicked a maximum speed of 147km/h at one point.

“We are now trying to bring some practical attributes to the solar car, that people can get in and out themselves and sit upright.”

Anyone interested in watching the race, or participating in the 2009 event, can find information through the World Solar Challenge website.

(Sources: WSC, The Advertiser)

Posted in Electric vehicles | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Will the Reva make it to Australia?

Posted by Car Geek on September 6, 2007

Reva G-Wiz. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Reva may be a familiar name to avid followers of electric cars. The Indian-owned company has had success in the UK where it has sold 600 of its G-Wiz urban electric vehicles on a trial basis and is now ready to go into mass production, however its history in Australia is not so rosy. The Reva was essentially banned from Australian roads last year because it was not tested to Australian safety specifications, which can cost on the order of $300,000.

Reva might be on the way to making a comeback here, though, with a modified model that is hoped to pass government safety regulations. The new version is expected to sell for under $20,000, have a top speed of up to 80 km/h (a 15 km/h increase over the original model) and has a range of 80 km. It has previously been classified as a full-size car, but Adelaide’s Solar Shop (who hopes to import and distribute the Reva in Australia) says that it is better suited to a “quadracycle” category, under which it falls in many countries. The main stumbling block to this is that no category currently exists in Australia, and a lack of federal support means that it is not likely to change any time soon.

Reva is hoping the car will prove popular in Australia if released, as an inexpensive form of urban and suburban transportation that emits no pollution and costs approximately 1c per kilometre to run. The Reva vehicles can be charged using a standard household outlet and seat two adults and two children.

(Source: CARSGuide)

Posted in Electric vehicles | 6 Comments »

Ultracaps hit the mark

Posted by Car Geek on September 6, 2007

Blink and you’ll miss it: for a short period of time yesterday (September 5), the top story on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website wasn’t about the APEC summit or the latest celebrity arrest, but rather about a small startup out of Texas called EEStor, which is secretively working on an “ultracapacitor” which could be used in electric vehicles in place of batteries.

EEStor’s ultracapacitors allegedly combine the best qualities of batteries and capacitors, with the ability to be charged in five minutes (although not through household outlets) and a potential range of 500 miles (800 km). The technology is expected to debut in ZENN low-speed electric vehicles next year, though no public demonstration of the technology has yet been made, leading to skepticism from some corners.

If that can make headlines in the midst of everything else happening in Sydney right now, electric cars might yet have a future in Australia. 😉

Posted in Electric vehicles | Leave a Comment »

New Zealand to trial electric cars

Posted by Car Geek on August 15, 2007

Meridian Energy, a New Zealand electricity provider to around 200,000 homes and businesses, is planning to trial the use of electric vehicles early next year. The company’s CEO, Keith Turner, believes that all-electric cars are the next step in the evolution of vehicles (after hybrids and plug-in hybrids) and feels that the required technology has reached a tipping point.

“Advances in motor and control technology, and especially battery technology, mean that all-electric cars will be appearing in the market in the not too distant future,” he was quoted as saying in a recent press release.

The transport sector is a major emitter in New Zealand, unlike Australia where transport accounts for only 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Meridian Energy hopes to prove the viability of electric vehicles as a clean mode of transport, as New Zealand’s only certified carbon-neutral electricity provider.

“The prize in making the move to electric vehicles comes when you recharge them with renewable electricity.  Meridian will be able to demonstrate renewable, zero-emission, certified carbon neutral mobility,” added Dr Turner.

“There is no point in somebody feeling good about driving round town in an electric vehicle if the electricity they’re using has come from a coal-burning plant.  All they’ve done is shifted the emissions from their tail pipe to a smoke-stack over somebody else’s town.”

The trial will aim to achieve three main goals:
1. To test how electric cars perform in New Zealand conditions
2. To find out what New Zealanders think about electric cars
3. To encourage the auto industry to look more closely at opportunities in New Zealand.

The specific vehicles to be trialled have not yet been identified by Meridian Energy.

(Source: Meridian Energy, via Scoop)

Posted in Carbon neutral, Electric vehicles, New Zealand | 3 Comments »

Analysis: Australia’s future fuel

Posted by Car Geek on July 5, 2007

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to take the opportunity to step back from each individual step that we’ve been focusing on here to take a look at the broader perspective.

In 2005, Australia consumed:

    – 18,712 million litres of petrol (15,856 ML of which was used in passenger vehicles)
    – 8690 million litres of diesel fuel (5,636 ML of which was used in rigid or articulated trucks)
    – 1564 million litres of LPG/CNG fuel

Current indicators are that fossil fuel use has increased in the 18 months since this data was recorded; alternative fuel use in transport was not significant enough to appear with these statistics at the time. In terms of fuel production:

    – Non-renewable fuel production has increased 446% in the last 30 years
    – Renewable fuel has increased 28% in the same period

Clearly these are not the markers of a country that has embraced alternative and renewable fuels, as much of the world is doing. This is both a weakness and an opportunity for us: although we have so far given up the chance to be a world leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we have been able to observe a very rapidly maturing field of fossil fuel replacements and make a sensible decision about which is best for the Australian environment. If you’re interested in knowing who the primary contenders are, read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Ethanol, fossil fuels, Hybrid, Hydrogen, Legislation, Nuclear power, renewable fuel | 5 Comments »

Editorial: Are cars a scapegoat?

Posted by Car Geek on May 23, 2007 recently published a story regarding the image of cars being largely to blame for carbon emissions, with some interesting points raised within it. The article reports that passenger cars contribute less to global warming than “the nation’s sheep and cow population emit through flatulence” and that moving the entire Australian passenger car fleet to plug-in electric would cause a “massive increase in greenhouse gases”. The bottom line: keep driving your car, it’s not to blame. How true is this claim, and is it responsible journalism to make it?

Neil Dowling, the article’s author, draws the bulk of his information from government sources such as the Australian Greenhouse Office and the Sustainable Energy Development Office, and the data he uses from these sources is certainly reasonable at face value. As a percentages game, vehicles aren’t the main culprit by any means – road transport makes up about 15 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to stationary energy generation which comprises about 35 per cent, thanks to our dependence on coal. Australia is in an unfortunate position in this respect; our electricity is so polluting that an electric car would produce more CO2 than an average sized petrol-driven car, such as a Toyota Camry.

As any green motor enthusiast would know, however, electric cars are but one part of the equation. While we can make some substantial cuts in our electricity use through various means – switching to CFLs, adjusting the thermostat, buying green power and solar panels – it’s important not to lose perspective of how much each of our activities affects emissions. A V8 car pollutes just as much on your local street as it does on a road in the United States, or in China, or in Norway. If you’re dedicated to reducing your “carbon footprint”, to borrow a rather clichéd phrase, you can’t say “oh, I use energy-saving lamps so I can afford to buy a Commodore instead of a Prius”.

Dowling also neglects to give any time to the far more feasible options of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Australia has a huge sugar cane growing capacity, and given the higher efficiency of ethanol derived from sugar cane as compared to corn (which is used almost exclusively in the United States), we’re wasting an opportunity to significantly reduce our oil consumption. Combined with methane capture from the farm flatulence mentioned earlier and various sources we can use to create biodiesel, we can reduce our fossil fuels use considerably.

In short: we have a long way to go in reducing emissions and our electricity consumption is a large part of it. For that reason, electric vehicles aren’t the best mainstream option for Australia right now, not until we move to more renewable or low-carbon sources. That doesn’t mean that we can neglect other areas in which we’re responsible for not only CO2 emissions, but others such as nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions which can have a damaging effect on the local air quality. We need to take a holistic approach rather than playing the tired old blame game if we want to effect any change at all.

Posted in Biodiesel, Electric vehicles, Ethanol | 4 Comments »