In ‘Electric vehicles’ Category


The Australian electric vehicle market

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Bryce Gaton explores what’s available now and what may be added soon to the Australian electric vehicle offerings.

Around the world, electric vehicles are moving beyond the realm of frustrated early adopters building their own to showroom doorstoppers providing viable alternatives to the fossil (fuelled) vehicle. With products coming out of most of the major manufacturers’ factories, there are now almost too many options for the would-be electric vehicle buyer to select from!


Unless, that is, you live in Australia…so why are we waiting?

What’s available overseas

There are so many electric vehicle options available overseas that it’s necessary to list them by vehicle segment rather than by manufacturer. Table 1 (in ReNew 131) shows a selection of electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) models that are currently available around the world (with the exception of the Tesla Model X which is expected to be released this year). They’re grouped by Euro NCAP segment, a designation that defines the type of vehicle, such as mini, compact, mid-size, etc.

Australian EV/PHEV offerings

The bold vehicle names in Table 1 are those currently on offer, or able to be bought secondhand, here in Australia in 2015. It’s a bit sad really, given the plethora of offerings elsewhere. However, combining this data with Table 2, we can see that five of the world’s six top-selling EV/PHEVs are available here, with the sixth offering in Australia (the i-MiEV) still in the world top 20. So at least it can be said that Australia does get the top EV/PHEV offerings. On the other hand, the EV/PHEV sales figures for Australia (in Table 3) are far less encouraging.

With such low EV and PHEV sales in 2014 in Australia, it is not at all surprising that the major vehicle manufacturers are seemingly uninterested in bringing additional models to split the market further.

It could also be argued that the manufacturers have done very little to promote EVs in Australia; however, that appears to be changing in 2015. With recent advertising campaigns for the Leaf, Outlander PHEV and BMW i3, as well as some canny marketing by Tesla, this year may see a surprising result for EV sales in Australia.

Read the full article in ReNew 131.

know your evs

Know your renewables: All about EVs

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Electric vehicles are evolving at a rapid pace and look set to displace fossil fuel vehicles in the not-too-distant future. Lance Turner looks at some of the basic concepts and terms you might come across when discussing EVs.

For almost 100 years, the personal automotive industry has been dominated by internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, burning either petrol, diesel or LPG. As an alternative to ICE-powered vehicles, electric vehicles (EVs) have been nothing but a novelty to most people, purported to lack range and power, making them unsuitable for most people’s uses.


However, all that is changing, with EVs making steady inroads into the global car market, and even (slowly) here in Australia. The shift in thinking started with the introduction of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight. With these vehicles, especially the Prius as it can run in all-electric mode at lower speeds, the general public started to experience some of the advantages of HEVs, such as reduced exhaust pipe emissions, almost silent driving and greatly increased efficiency.

But hybrids have a number of drawbacks. Firstly, as they have both an electric drivetrain and an internal combustion engine, they are more complex than either straight ICE vehicles or EVs. Secondly, although there is an electric drive component to their drivetrains, hybrids still gain all their motive power from fossil fuels (conventional hybrids can’t be charged from the mains grid, and they usually have quite small battery packs), so they are still an unsustainable form of transport, despite having lower emissions than equivalently sized ICE vehicles. The world’s oil reserves will last longer with hybrid vehicles, but will still eventually be exhausted.

As the public’s acceptance of hybrids grew, there was the desire for vehicles that had the advantages of EVs, without the limitations. Hence, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) was born. These are similar to a hybrid but they differ in two important ways—they have larger battery packs that can be charged directly from mains power, rather than from the on-board ICE, and their electric motor is designed as the primary motor. This means that they can be driven as an EV until the battery is almost flat (or another battery level setpoint), at which time the ICE starts up and provides electricity to charge the battery and power the electric motor.

For owners who do many short trips, PHEVs can run purely on electric power and may never need to use the petrol backup at all. The Holden Volt is an example of such a vehicle, and the most recent incarnation of the Volt has an electric-only range of around 80 km, making it suitable for all-electric use most of the time.

However, there is a need to uncouple personal transport from fossil fuels completely to reduce emissions from this sector, and given that alternative fuels such as ethanol and hydrogen often produce as much CO2 in their production as they save, the only realistic way to achieve this currently is to make cars completely electric, removing the internal combustion engine option altogether.

Read the full article in ReNew 131, covering how an EV works, energy recovery from braking, driving an EV, why buy an EV, battery lifespan, cost and materials, charging and more!


Everything’s going electric: Planes, buses and bikes

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

It’s not just cars that are going electric. Lance Turner takes a look at other transport options that are ditching fossil fuels, including electric bikes.

While electric cars seem to get all of the publicity, there’s a lot more happening regarding the electrification of transport than just cars.

Personal transport—motorbikes and bicycles


On the personal transport side of things, motorbikes are set to become the next big EV thing, and we have already started to see the move to electric two-wheelers here in Australia. Quite a few low-powered commuter type electric scooters have been on the market for a while, but for anyone looking for a replacement for their fume spewing motorbike, there haven’t been many options—until now.

Vehicles such as the Australian-made Catavolt S6 and Zero SR from Zero Motorcycles in the USA have shown that electric motorbikes are now viable replacements for all but long-distance touring bikes. For example, the Zero SR with Power Tank long-range battery has city/ highway/combined ranges of 298/151/201 km respectively, a top speed of 164 km/h and a zero to 100 km/h time of under four seconds. Note that with electric vehicles, city range is often better than highway range due to the lower air friction losses and the opportunity for energy recovery with regen braking. This is the opposite of ICE vehicles, which are very inefficient in stop-start travel and reach much greater efficiency at a fixed speed.

The Catavolt S6 is available online at www. while the Zero range is available from a number of dealers here in Australia (see www.zeromotorcycles. com/au/locator and

While on the subject of two wheels, electric bicycles have been a popular choice for many years, and there is a wide range available. Indeed, most bike shops have at least some models, but it’s important not to cut corners and buy the cheapest bike you find. There’s a price to pay if you want a robust bike with a reliable battery and motor—buying a cheapie might leave you stuck with a failed battery in only a year or two, meaning an expensive unscheduled replacement. There are numerous good quality e-bikes available, so talk to your local bike shop and see what they recommend. For more information, see the Electric Bike Buyers Guide in ReNew 123.

Read the full article in ReNew 131, including more on buses and planes.

ev delaware

Not just transport: Your EV’s other life

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Electric vehicle by day, powering your home by night? Kristian Handberg explains how EVs could help in the energy storage equation.

For those with solar PV systems getting paid next to nothing for their surplus generation, the day is fast approaching when they might store this energy for later use. But should they use a stationary battery or an electric vehicle?


The situation for stationary batteries is changing rapidly. Battery costs are coming down and electricity market rules are changing to accommodate new business models for energy sellers who use storage1. Solar homeowners may soon be offered energy supply agreements that include a battery located on their property but owned and operated by their electricity retailer2. Homeowners will see the benefits via reduced electricity costs and supply agreements that avoid the complexity and risk of owning and operating a grid-connected energy storage system.

Right now, however, solar homeowners must deal with these challenges themselves. High upfront costs and long paybacks, risks associated with new technology and warranty commitments, and complicated energy management strategies are all reasons to delay on battery investment or look for alternatives.

One of these alternatives may be to use an electric vehicle as storage—if an electric car works for your transport needs, why not also use it to get better value from your solar investment.

While vehicle charging can be managed in line with solar production, at present there are no electric cars in the Australian market that allow charge to be extracted for other uses. Equipment is sold in Japan that allows emergency backup power to be obtained directly from the vehicle (see box on this page), along with vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging solutions that can provide backup and solar PV optimisation. Combining a standard charger with a bi-directional inverter (supporting both the vehicle charging and discharging) and an energy management controller, these V2H systems currently cost around $1000/kW (or around $4000 for a 16A V2H unit, as compared to $500–$1000 for a standard 16 A charger).

These costs can be expected to decrease as the technology improves and the plug-in vehicle market grows. Driven by these changes and the results of trials currently underway, the analysts Navigant are forecasting that V2X-enabled vehicles (vehicles which support discharging activities) will be launched internationally in 2016 alongside improved V2H systems3.

As the technology evolves, there will be opportunities for householders, within the context of wider considerations.

Read the full article in ReNew 131.

tesla EV

EV charging infrastructure in Australia

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Is the lack of EV charging stations in Australia really holding back EV sales? Tim Washington considers the question in light of the US experience.

It’s almost impossible to talk about electric cars without talking about public charging infrastructure—understandable, given the prevalence of petrol stations to make our cars ‘go’. But when it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), is this infrastructure something we really need?


A wide distribution of petrol stations is required because 100% of our petrol car refuelling is done in public. For EVs, the situation is quite different: public EV charging infrastructure is needed to service just 5% to 10% of an EV driver’s fuelling needs.

Indeed, one of the selling points of EVs is the ability to plug in at home and start every day with a ‘full tank’.

On top of that, the average driving distance in Australia is around 40 km a day, well below the standard range of most EVs.

Nevertheless, range anxiety is real— averages are just that, after all, so there will be times people need to travel further than the EV’s range. One way this anxiety can be (partially) resolved is with readily accessible public charging stations.

But do public EV charging stations make business sense? What is the government’s role, if any? A good way to examine these questions is to look at overseas experience.

Dots on a map

“Dots on a map, Tim, that’s what they want— dots on a map.” This is what a major US EV charging station operator said to me when I asked about their car charging operations.

At last count, there were around 9500 ‘dots on a map’—public EV charging stations—in the USA. Compared to around 200 in Australia, that would seem like a lot. But key lessons can’t be learnt based on headline stats alone, so in this article I’ll attempt to look at the experience for charging station operators in the US and what lessons can be learnt from this to help expand charging infrastructure in Australia.

Read the full article in ReNew 131.

IMG_4484 400px

Off-grid EV charging

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

From off-grid electric vehicle (EV) charging to a desire for more sustainable transport, EV owners share the stories behind their choices with Robyn Deed.

Until recently, number one on Ross Ulman’s ‘bucket list’ was owning an EV and charging it from the sun (a ReNew kind of bucket list!). He got to tick off that item late last year after buying a secondhand Nissan Leaf, with 10,000 km on the clock, around the same time as he and his wife Vivienne moved to their new energy-efficient off-grid home near Daylesford.


He bought the Leaf from a friend who was upgrading to a larger EV, a Mitsubishi Outlander, which, with its ‘range extending’ petrol engine meant the friend could do without a second fossil-fuelled car. Pure EVs are probably uncommon in the country, says Ross, because of the longer distances travelled and the resulting ‘range anxiety’. Range doesn’t cause Ross problems, however. He plans ahead for his longest trip, about 90 km return to Ballarat for work, which is well within the 120 km range of his fully charged Leaf (the quoted range is 170 km, but he finds he only gets about 120 km with the hilly driving around Daylesford). His main driving is into and around Daylesford, about 15 km, all easily doable without mid-trip recharging.

He doesn’t drive the Leaf for his occasional trips to Melbourne, though driving there from Daylesford would be no problem, and charging in Melbourne would be no problem also, as there are charging stations in the city. However, the trip back to Daylesford would be problematic as, even if leaving Melbourne with full charge, the Leaf would need a further charge, albeit a short one, on the journey home—the increase in altitude uses more power than the downhill run into Melbourne. Ross is planning to upgrade in a couple of years, when a Leaf with double the range is slated to become available. He hopes that affordable EVs with double or triple the range of the current Leaf will make them more mainstream. And leadership from government is also needed. “EVs are the future of the car industry,” he says, “but we really need strong public policy with incentives and infrastructure investment.”

One interesting aspect of Ross’s EV is that it’s charged off-grid. He only charges the EV during the day when the sun is shining, a bit different from the usual overnight charging regime. The off-grid system, designed by Off-Grid Energy Australia, is AC-coupled, which Ross says has been fantastic, enabling him to charge the EV at the same time as the house batteries are charged: any draw from the house or car comes direct from the solar panels (when they’re producing energy), rather than from the house battery, reducing battery cycling.

The solar PV system is oversized (10.5 kW solar and 40 kWh batteries), which the system designers say should be sufficient to charge both the house batteries and the car even on cloudy days. So far (they’ve had the system since November 2014) there have been a couple of runs of four or five cloudy days and sufficient energy has indeed been generated.

Ross plans to work around his solar system production to avoid over-discharge of the batteries. If there’s a run of rainy days, he won’t charge the Leaf: if it has enough remaining charge he’ll drive it short distances; and, if it hasn’t, then he’ll make alternative transport arrangements, such as using their petrol vehicle or public transport. So what’s next for Ross’s bucket list? Well, there’s that Leaf upgrade in a couple of years. Or perhaps it’s just time to settle back and enjoy demonstrating that off-grid and EV can go together.

Read more stories about EV ownership in Best EVer stories: Electric vehicle owners share the love in ReNew 131.

tesla 400px

Melbourne EV Expo 2015

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Here’s the latest news about the EV Expo in Melbourne this April. Find out how you can get involved.

We’re doing it again! The Melbourne EV Expo 2015 will be held on Sunday April 19th in the Atrium at Swinburne University in Hawthorn. Please put this date in your diary!


This years event is shaping up to be bigger and better than last time. Still with all the same great stuff, some new bits, and much more advertising planned.

We are calling for all enthusiasts with electric cars, bikes, motorbikes, scooters, skateboards, outboards, or any other vehicles propelled by electric motors. Bring your vehicle along for the chance to be admired, and even judged in the Show ‘N’ Shine for prizes and cred if you want (registrations MUST be made prior to the event this year).

We are really keen to get a vintage electric car if possible, who knows someone with one? Please put us in touch with them if you can.

We are also keen to hear from anyone who can donate a couple of hours on the day to help with the running of the event. You will be rewarded with a free Expo t-shirt, and will feel great about helping bring EV’s to the masses!

Please get in touch if you’d like to assist with the pre-event planning too, we could always use a couple more people.

Please email if you can help out in any way.

We look forward to seeing you there, and please say you’ll attend on our Facebook event page here to receive updates about the event.


Kael Rail: Ultralight solar bike rail project

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Being involved with the ATA (ReNew’s publisher) is something that brings great variety and enjoyment. A great example of this was a chance phone call with Danielle and her seven-year-old daughter Kael. Doug Rolfe explains.


Seven-year old Kael had an idea for her local school science competition, but working out if the idea was realistic was proving a problem. After all, where do you go to ask about solar-powered trains for transporting kids with bikes to school?

Queensland Rail did their best to help with information about their electric rolling stock, but the scale of the average locomotive and standard carriages was well beyond what Kael was thinking of.

Happily, someone put Danielle, Kael’s mum, onto the ATA. We quickly saw that Kael’s idea had merit and pooled our office expertise to help find existing projects worldwide. Our local experience with Melbourne trams and custom electric vehicles also proved helpful.

After some help in understanding the rough energy requirements, Kael was able to finish her research and complete her project.


A few weeks later, we got the exciting news— after receiving a highly commended award at Mudgeeraba Creek State School, Kael had won first place in the Year 2 and 3 division of the Griffith University Gold Coast Schools Science Competition in the Environmental Action Project section. Of course, Kael was most excited by the prize of an iTunes voucher:”You can download games!”

This success also meant that Kael’s project was automatically entered in the science competition run by the Science Teachers Association of Queensland. After some nervous days, Danielle received word that Kael had to attend as she had won a prize.

In the end, Kael’s project won her first prize in her division in the Queensland event. Mudgeeraba Creek State School won the prize for best overall school—they received 21 prizes from their 31 entries, including the Queensland Science Student of the Year!

What gave Kael the idea? 

Kael says: “We love our school, which is why we travel the extra distance. I have always wanted to ride my bike to school. But Mum and Dad say it’s too dangerous and there are places without bike paths. We do have electric trains, but not near us. I like riding my bike and I’m getting really fast. At school, we were looking at how we use energy in our lives. So then I thought of a solar-powered bike rail. Solar is free energy from the sun and no pollution.”

Danielle, Kael’s mum, says that the local roads are a big traffic area during school times. Some mornings it can take 40 minutes to do what’s usually a seven-minute drive. The high concentration of schools in the area means that a local public transport option would be quite desirable.

Kael says, “We wanted it [the railway] along the road, but it would make the road more crowded. Then we decided to have it away from the traffic.”

Kael worked out a very practical 5 km route for the ultralight train that would collect students on bikes from a number of schools along the way, using existing power and water easements behind the local community.

Kael spoke to Nick Abroms, Gold Coast Council’s Active Travel Project Officer who thought the idea made real sense. He said it was clear that people would use it, because it would cut down travelling time and be safe

Read more in ReNew 130.


Food vs fuel: Ethics and sustainability

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Does biofuel production contribute to global food shortage and hunger, or not? Dr Seona Candy steps us through the pros, cons and complexities of using food crops for biofuels.


In a recent edition of ReNew (ReNew 127), an article describing the use of grain as fuel for wood pellet stoves was published. It inspired some opposing comments regarding the use of food for fuel. Although I can’t comment directly on this particular case of burning grain for space heating, I can perhaps provide some insight into the complexity, ethics and sustainability of the wider debate.

The ‘food vs fuel’ debate, as it is commonly known, is mainly concerned with first-generation liquid biofuels. These biofuels are derived from various agricultural crops that can also be used for food and feed, and have been developed primarily for transport uses. This is the case because there are already considered to be sufficient renewable energy options available to provide stationary energy.

The central argument in the ‘food vs fuel’ ethical debate is about whether the development (or not) of biofuels will cause people to go hungry. Critics of biofuels argue that diverting food crops to biofuel production will increase food prices and cause hunger, particularly among the global poor. Advocates of biofuels argue that their development will help mitigate climate change, and its potential future impacts on agriculture and food production, thus avoiding hunger for everyone (the global poor included) in the longer term.

The first of these two arguments seems fairly straightforward. Indeed, biofuel development in the early 2000s did precede significant rises in the prices of staple crops, causing the 2007/08 global food crisis and food riots in many countries. But it is not safe to assume that biofuels alone caused food prices to rise or that the impacts of rising food prices were negative for all groups who make up the global poor.

According to a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the 2007/08 food crisis was primarily driven by a combination of rising oil prices, a greater demand for biofuels and trade shocks in the food market.

Rising oil prices led to increased costs of cereal production, as conventional agriculture is an energy-intensive enterprise. Higher energy prices increased the demand for biofuels, which became more competitively priced when compared with oil. At the same time, cereal demand increased from oil-producing countries and weather shocks reduced the supply of some grains, increasing prices further. This led to a ban on exports by producers and panic buying by importers, which only increased prices yet again.

These increased prices led to food riots in developing countries. As Thompson2 argues, though, increased food prices negatively impact mainly the urban poor, who must purchase their food. For the rural poor, however, who produce and sell their food, rising food prices could be an advantage. It would increase their income and ability to buy food that they don’t grow themselves. Since the rural poor make up around 80% of the global poor, fewer people may in fact go hungry due to rising food prices.

Read the full article in ReNew 130.


Electric vehicles and the grid

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Increased EV uptake means challenges for the grid, but the good news is that demand-side management could help. Marcus Brazil and Julian de Hoog explain.

The last few years have seen a rapid increase across the globe in the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). A recent report by the US Department of Energy points out that sales of EVs are increasing faster than those of hybrids, if you compare the same stages of the technology life cycle. One of the leading manufacturers of EVs, Tesla, is now valued at more than $30 billion and has been projected to be a major disrupter of the automotive industry. Many major car makers are planning to introduce electric and hybrid models into the Australian market in the near future.


An important question that is often overlooked in discussions on electric vehicles is: what will be their impact on the electricity grid? An EV with a typical daily commute of 40 km requires roughly 6–8 kWh of energy to recharge; this is equivalent to the daily needs of a small household. In other words, if you buy an electric vehicle, the impact on the local electricity network is about the same as adding a small house to the neighbourhood. Furthermore, in an unregulated environment, most EV owners are likely to plug in when they arrive home, around 6 pm, at exactly the time that residential electricity networks experience peak demand.

The impact of EVs on the electricity grid

The main challenges to the grid arising from the increased uptake of electric vehicles fall into three categories.

Peak load

Perhaps the most well known of the problems, peak load occurs at the time of day when the highest demand for electricity occurs. Our networks are sized to withstand peak demand, but if electric vehicles are added to the network, then the additional demand may be too much for the local lines and transformer to handle. New infrastructure may need to be installed, the cost of which is inevitably borne by the consumer.

Voltage drop

The lines in a local distribution network have an impedance of their own. As current travels from the transformer to your house, this impedance leads to a decrease in voltage. The more current you draw, the more the voltage drops. An electric vehicle can draw a lot of current for long periods of time, and therefore cause a significant, sustained drop in your voltage. Low voltage can mean that some appliances may not run properly, or may run inefficiently (reducing their lifetimes). What’s more, the drop in voltage caused by an EV does not affect only its owner; it can affect other houses in the network too, particularly those furthest from the transformer.

Phase unbalance and power quality

Most distribution networks in Australia are 3-phase, and most houses connect to only one of these phases. If several people in a neighbourhood buy EVs, and by chance these are connected to the same phase, then there can be significant losses in efficiency in the network due to the resulting unbalance. There is also the potential that an EV and its charge point could affect the overall quality of the power in the network, for example by distorting the 50 Hz grid waveform.

When are these problems likely to arise? A study of two networks in Australia suggests that there can already be problems at fairly low vehicle uptake rates—for example at only 10% in a network based in Melbourne. While even a 10% uptake of EVs is some years away, now is a good time to start thinking about how to prepare for these problems.

The solution: shifting of demand

The good news is that many of these problems can be prevented. Electric vehicles are among the most ‘flexible’ loads in the grid: they can be shifted to other times of the day, such as overnight, when there is more capacity in the network.

Read the full article in ReNew 129.


The world record breaking eVe

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Doug Rolfe meets team Sunswift as they embark on their record breaking race with the very sleek eVe.

In the chill and deep morning fog north of Anglesea, the University of New South Wales Sunswift team is preparing eVe for a big day. This amazing car is a sleek, black vehicle that has the look of a high end sports car, yet it uses only around 3HP at 100km/hr.


With the solar panels carefully taped over and sealed against light leakage, the arrays disconnected and the solar power controller removed from the car, it has become a pure battery electric vehicle for an attempt at the world record for the average speed over 500km for a vehicle under 500kg. The previous record was 73km/hr set in 1988 by the GM Sunracer. The team are expecting to easily beat that record. “We didn’t come here to do 75km/hr.” says 2013 team project director, Sam. The race will consist of 120 laps of the 4.2km track at the Australian Automotive Research Centre proving ground.

Team Sunswift make final checks to the vehicle before the big race begins.

Driver, Garth Walden, familiarising himself with the vehicle cockpit.


Project Director, Hayden Smith, says the UNSW project began in 1995 with a team from a range of disciplines including mechanical, electrical, software, renewable and photovoltaic engineering. “Furthermore, we have students from other faculties contributing to the team – arts, media, design, business, science – the list is endless. It’s by far one of the most academically diverse undergraduate student groups at UNSW,” says Hayden.

The committed team of engineering students swarm over the car, changing tyres, adjusting tyre pressures, checking connections, and mounting their ‘piece de resistance’, a short aerodynamic tail designed to improve the already impressive aerodynamic by another 5%. Finally the aerodynamic wheel covers are taped on.

There’s a large Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) team scrutinising the vehicle, locking off the solar panel connections and mounting the lap transponder. After they go over the vehicle with a thorough series of safety checks, Garth Walden, driver for the ELMOFO EV race vehicle, climbs in and mounts the removable steering wheel. After getting strapped in to the race harness and completing radio checks, the door gets taped shut for aerodynamic advantage.

Finally, with CAMS approval, eVe heads out with a quiet whir for a shakedown lap. As it flys past the pits, the team cheer it on as the radar gun clocks it at 110 km/hr. It’s quietness is a true sign of the efficiency of this vehicle at these speeds.

With all set and a nod from the timekeeper, eVe sets out on her goal: 120 laps of the 4.2km track in the shortest time possible.

The design of the 2-seater car is impressive. With such high aerodynamic performance (a CdA under 0.2) and a lightweight carbon fibre body, its energy requirements are more on the scale of household appliance rather than a road-going vehicle.

Eventually the fog lifts, and so do the spirits of the team as, lap after lap, eVe performs faultlessly. There’s a scheduled pit stop planned for lap 60, but on lap 53 the car blows a front right tyre. The car travels a few more kilometres to complete the lap and return to the pit area, running only on the rim of the carbon fibre wheel. The team was fully prepared and after a quick and smooth seven minute pit stop to change drivers and both front wheels, CAMS driver Karl Reindler heads out for the second half of the day. Seeing the chase/support car being refuelled during the pit stop provided an interesting contrast to the zero emission eVe.

The post-mortem on the blown tyre shows it was heavily worn, but had failed when an object had pierced the sidewall. Even so, the team is focused on their goal and plan for a second pit stop. On lap 97, in only four minutes, they change the front right wheel (taking the cornering load) and Garth heads out again to finish off. Karl clearly enjoyed himself: “I could do that all day; it’s comfortable, relaxing, but the racing seat is hard on the lower back!”

Egged on with cheers and waves, eVe crosses the line, completing the 120 laps in just over four and a half hours giving an average speed of well over 105km/hr (the actual record confirmation is an International FIA process that takes up to a month). The sense of relief and celebration is obvious, but also interesting is the team’s confidence in their vehicle during the day. They clearly had no doubt that they we’re going to comfortably break the existing record. We look forward to a friendly rivalry of teams with stunning designs like this attempting to break the new record.

eVe solar car crosses the line and breaks the record!


The following puts eVe’s effort in context.

Vehicle Energy used to travel 500km*

UNSW Sunswift eVe 20 kWh @ 107 km/h [1]

Nissan LEAF 86 kWh @ 89 km/h [2]

Tesla Model S 67 kWh @ 89 km/h [3]

2013 Toyota Corolla 238 kWh @ 62.6 km/h [4]

[1] 20 kWh approximate – it’s still a race vehicle so there are secrets

[2] highway cycle, 24kWh pack @ 80%DOD, 4.5 charges

[3] 85 kWh pack @ 80%DOD (510 km range = 0.98 charge)

[4] E170/2013 model, ADR 81/02 ‘extra urban’ = 5.4lt/100km, 8.8 kWh/lt for 91 octane fuel.

Charging the battery.

eVe’s Future

It’s pretty hard to compare these test conditions and vehicles, but it’s still possible to say that eVe uses roughly one-quarter to one-third of the energy of a ‘normal’ electric car and maybe one-tenth of that of a petrol vehicle.

To become road legal eVe will need lights, a higher running height, a safety glass windscreen some latches and stronger hinges for the doors and possibly side impact protection. That will add some weight, but would still come under 500-600kg and be capable of travelling 400+km at highway speeds. If current EVs with that capability are high-end sports vehicles using up to four times as much energy, storing all that energy means larger battery capacity and therefore cost. Through great design the UNSW Sunswift team have demonstrated a way to break the price/range problem.

The spaghetti wiring and raw internal look clearly shows that this isn’t a production vehicle, but those are relatively trivial things to change. The basic vehicle is a true candidate to become a road going hypercar. Exciting times!


Controller: 2x Tritium Wave Sculptor 22

Motors: Two rear wheel motors based on the winning CSIRO design, bought in and then re-engineered. These motors have a peak power output of 10kW, 20kg weight per wheel, 97% nominal efficiency and normally run at 1-2kW.

Solar array: The 4 m2 array is considered to be a range extender. The Sunpower monocrystalline solar cells have 22% efficiency (after encapsulation) which equates to about 880W for the array.

Battery: The lithium ion battery used for the record run weighs 100kg and has

20kwh useable capacity (12 hours to charge). The nominal system voltage is 140 volts

Battery Monitoring System: Custom system that monitors individual cell voltage and temperatures and also the total energy used from the battery pack.

Tyres: Michelin special order low rolling resistance (LRR) tyres.


UNSW Sunswift


Clint's Renders 2.62web

The SolarX solar car: part 2

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Energy will flow from the sun, the brakes and even the shock absorbers in the SolarX solar car. Clint Steele describes the power train in part 2 of our series on the car’s design.

The main function of a solar car is, not surprisingly, to convert solar energy to torque at the driving wheels so that the car can travel at speeds that make it a practical driving option.

Power flow


The biggest difference in a solar car’s power system, compared to a conventional car, is in the flow of energy and the recapture of that energy. In a standard petrol car, the power flow is pretty much one way: fuel engine transmission.

In this solar car, however, there’s an additional flow, with power reclaimed via regenerative braking. This is common to most electric vehicles.

There’s also one more power flow in the SolarX. In most cars (electric or non-electric), energy is lost in the suspension system as it dampens the car vibrations. Shock absorbers can reach up to 180 °C as they dispel this energy as heat. This sounds high, but the actual amount of energy is usually not enough to warrant the effort of regenerative shock

absorbers. This is not the case here—the power used by the car is so small that the suspension units will make a significant difference. Thus, the team working on the suspension are also developing a regenerative shock absorber.

Power management

In a standard car, the power is delivered as needed: fuel is delivered to the engine or the current is drawn from the batteries when required.

However, the sun is an energy source that can’t be controlled in such a way. If the batteries are fully charged and the vehicle is at a speed that needs a relatively small amount of power, any excess energy falling on the solar cells is lost. And, in fact, this extra energy needs to be managed, to avoid damaging the batteries. This is another unusual aspect of managing the energy flow in this solar car.

Figure 1 shows the major components and the layout of the power system that ultimately converts sunshine to tractive effort. The subsystems are discussed below.

Energy storage

Most electric vehicles on the market today rely on lithium battery technology. For the SolarX car, the design team is investigating a hybrid energy storage system consisting of traditional lithium ion batteries coupled with supercapacitors.

Supercapacitors have superior power density, much higher than that of chemical batteries, which means they can be lighter for the same peak output power capacity.

A series of high-power car stops and starts will cycle a battery enough to shorten its life. By using supercapacitors to take these peaks, the life of the battery can be extended considerably.

This is not a concern in solar car racing, which is the pedigree of this car, but it is in road cars.

One of the challenges of this project will be managing the flow of electricity to each of the batteries and capacitors as desired.

Read the full article in ReNew 127. Read Part 1 of the article here.


Final render.197 web

The SolarX solar car: part 1

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Swinburne University designs a Mad Max-inspired car that could survive in a post-apocalyptic world devoid of fuel or power, writes Clint Steele.

Solar cars have been around for more than 30 years. Most ReNew readers will have seen at least one story about the World Solar Challenge, the solar car race from Darwin to Adelaide (including in the last ReNew!).


Solar cars now readily make this journey every two years. In fact, it may have become a bit passé. There was a time when the event would gain considerable attention, but now it seems less of a challenge and more of a hobby for those with the desire and technical know-how, and the media is less interested.

Perhaps it’s time to take solar cars to the next level.

The idea to make a commercially viable solar car—one that can be sold at a profit and so allow for a sustainable business—is not completely new. There is the Venturi Eclectic, for example (see full article for details).

Of course, there’s a lot more needed than an idea to make something happen. Experience, expertise and commercial nous are essential.

This is the first article in a series about a group of Australians (solar racers, engineering students and business investors) working together to develop a locally produced solarpowered sports car for road use.

The power of solar

Imagine a car that will keep on running as long as the sun keeps rising each day. No matter how far you are from the nearest service station, you can keep driving. That’s the strength of the solar car: complete freedom.

Not only can you keep on going, you know that there is no question of pollution while you drive. Standard electric cars need power from somewhere and this might be a renewable source or not. With a solar car, there is no doubt: it’s clean.

That was the idea from the chairman of Aurora Solar Racing: a Mad Max-inspired car that could survive in a post-apocalyptic world devoid of fuel or power, and designed to show to the world just how powerful solar power can be.

It is intended that the solar car will look and handle like a sports car, with respectable take off and tight handling, to counter some of the common stereotypes about solar cars (slow, poor handling, more like a golf buggy than a real car) and so demonstrate the wider potential of solar power. The plan is that this is a car that could be used for doing the shopping, but also for more exciting things.

Read the full article in ReNew 126, or part 2 of the article here.


Carrying power

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Can pedal power be used to replace a car? Adam Peck says yes, with his household replacing one car with two electric cargo bikes. He discusses the options.

Cargo bikes are becoming more and more popular these days. This article explains what they are and how to go about choosing one for your needs. It also highlights my family’s journey from a two-car family with two garage-bound pushies to our new one-car status with two well-used electric cargo bikes.


Cargo bikes have become very popular in Holland and Denmark. They are often used as a family transport vehicle in these countries’ bike-friendly cities—and also just for lugging bulky items around. Most of these are pedal-powered pushies due to the mainly flat roads and short distances.

The case for electric
In Australia, cargo bikes are becoming a more common sight around the roads, carrying kids and cargo. At least here in Perth, it seems that these are often electric cargo bikes. With our more hilly roads and longer distances, an electric cargo bike is more practical, making it more likely that it will be used frequently, and as a car replacement.

Cargo bikes are pretty heavy and the loads they carry can be even heavier, another reason why electric assistance is an attractive option. Most box-style cargo bikes (bakfiets, or box bikes) weigh 30+ kg, and can carry 80+ kg in the box, 40 kg on the back rack plus the weight of the rider—over 250 kg in total! With those sorts of loads, unless you have legs of steel, you might have to get off and push that bike uphill if it doesn’t provide some assistance.

Cargo bike styles
There are a couple of different styles of cargo bikes. I nominally split them into three categories: bikes, trikes and utilities.

Read the full article in ReNew 126

Sunswift - eVe

The sunny side of the street – Solar cars evolve

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Amy Rolfe checks out the cars competing in the 2013 World Solar Challenge, powered by nothing but solar energy.


The battle for efficiency and sustainability can be seen in everything from recycling bins to our rooftops as Australian society becomes more concerned about the damage our way of life is having on the environment. One sector of our lives, however, has remained relatively untouched—our cars. The electric car movement has begun to work on this problem as they integrate with rooftop solar systems and upgrade petrol vehicles with electric motors and increasingly light lithium battery packs. But another group of enthusiasts has taken a different approach.

The World Solar Challenge (WSC) has been running since 1987—a marathon 3000 km journey from Darwin to Adelaide powered by nothing but solar energy. Teams leave Darwin and drive as far as possible until 5 pm each day, when they must stop wherever they are and set up camp until the next day. In 2013, 48 teams from 24 countries are participating in the WSC.

The vehicles fall into three different classes—the Michelin Cruiser class, the Go Pro Adventure class and the indubitably gorgeous Challenger class.

The Cruiser class is created for practicality—cars that would meet road registration requirements in their country of origin and carry the driver and at least one passenger.

The Adventure class consists only of cars that have already participated in previous races, including the WSC.

The Challenger class is at the forefront of design, striving to create faster, sleeker and more energy efficient cars than any that have ever graced the Stuart Highway. This year, 28 teams have cars in the Challenger class. Two of these teams are Australian: TeamArrow, a Queensland-based team, who are participating for their first year ever with the Arrow1, and the University of Western Sydney, with their vehicle the SolAce.

Two other Australian teams, the TAFE SA Solar Spirit team with Solar Spirit 3 and UNSW Sunswift with eVe, are partaking in the Cruiser class, and the Aurora Vehicle Association are participating in the Adventure class with their familiar car, the Aurora Evolution.

A guide to form
The Aurora team manager, Andris Sampsons, gave us an insider’s opinion on the likely top contenders this year: “The Challenger class represents the pinnacle of solar vehicle efficiency. Based on previous form and their new vehicles it looks like the top picks would be Nuon Solar Team, Nuna 7 (Netherlands), Tokai University, Tokai Challenger (Japan) and University of Michigan, Generation (USA).”

But he notes: “In pushing the envelope on efficiency and performance, some teams are pushing the design rule boundaries and it will be interesting to see whether the prizewinner will be ultimately determined by post-race protest, rather than on the line placing.” Interesting!

In the revolutionary Cruiser class, Andris likes the look of both UNSW Solar Racing Team’s eVe and the Hochschule Bochum Solarcar Team’s PowerCore SunCruiser.

Read the full article in ReNew 125

group shot

Prize position – First place (first try!)

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Dedicated teacher John Evans tells the story of how his students won the 2012 schools e-bike race in the Hunter Valley EV Prize.

As part of our Year 9 and 10 Design and Technology course, Hunter Christian School registered to compete in the 2012 EV Prize Schools competition. This is an endurance race for student-designed and made electric bikes, organised by the University of Newcastle. The competitors are allowed a budget of just $200 to purchase an energy source. This is generally a battery of some sort, but other options are possible. The team that completes the most laps in 1.5 hours wins!


It was our first time entering. After many hours of research, the school’s two teams settled on a 24 volt LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) 20 amp-hour battery to power the two bikes. This relatively new lithium battery technology needs a computer to manage the charging to maintain battery health (a BMS, or battery management system). Both the batteries and the BMS were purchased from Catavolt in Cardiff for $275.

After another lengthy period of research with some good learning for everyone involved on motor theory and types, the teams selected a 500 watt brushless DC motor with a built-in computer controller and planetary gearbox.

We chose this motor because it came with a planetary gearbox that efficiently dropped the rpm down to a usable range. We are not talking about professional riders, so the likelihood of 15- or 16-year-old students keeping the motor operating within a close rpm range was low. The motor is very efficient (93%) around 3000 rpm. With roughly a 10:1 drop in the gearbox, this gave us about 300 rpm.

Thanks to The Bike Man in Islington, the team obtained two secondhand bikes: a road bike and a mountain bike. Lots of bike maintenance and repairs ensued, prior to the rebirth of the bikes as 21st century electrical vehicles. There were plenty of breakages and some assistance from another shop, Two Wheel Industries, before the heartache subsided and two reliable vehicles rolled out ready for the race track.

The end result was a bike (with no pedals!) capable of doing 40 kph on the flat and able to maintain 30 kph around our local go-karts track.
In addition to building the bikes, the students were given a number of other options to be part of the team. Some designed a banner, logos, team bags and T-shirts. This meant that more students had the opportunity to use their gifts and skills and we all learnt lots about working as a team and how to manage a project.

Read the full article in ReNew 124

Eon composite

An electric bike buyers guide

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Cleaner transport options like cycling are not for everyone. But what if the bike could do a lot of the work? Lance Turner looks at the current options in electric bikes in ReNew 123.

Electric bikes (commonly called e-bikes) give the average person another option when it comes to mobility. While a regular human-powered bike is not seen as an option by many due to the need to be the only source of motive power, an e-bike looks a lot more attractive.


Firstly, we should start by looking at what an electric bike actually is. E-bikes come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, but there are two main categories—road-going and off-road bikes. These both consist of a bike or bike-like frame fitted with an electric motor (either frame-mounted or in one of the wheel hubs) which is powered by a battery (usually a lithium-based battery for low weight) via an electronic speed controller. There are many variations and many suppliers allow you to mix and match components or have a range of different models with different combinations, so finding an e-bike that suits your needs is no longer the problem it used to be.

Road bike power limit

Road-going bicycles are limited in motor power to just 250 watts in Australia, and 300 watts in New Zealand. In Australia, the limit was previously 200 watts but this was recently changed to 250 watts for ‘pedelecs’—bikes that only provide power assistance when you pedal. This reflects the global market, with adoption of the current European standard (EN 15194). Victoria was the first state to enact the change in September 2012; information on the new rules can be found at

So in Australia there are now two categories of road-going bikes—bikes that can run on motor power only, which can be up to 200 watts, and pedelecs, which can be up to 250 watts. There’s nothing like making legislation consistent!

Still, 250 watts is not a lot better than 200 watts. In some countries, such as the USA, there is no power limit, simply a maximum motor-only speed limit—a much more sensible limit as it enables the bike to better handle varying conditions such as steep hills.

Any bike with motor power over 250 watts, whether it has pedals or not, is not technically legal for use on-road under the current laws and should only be used off-road. Some designs, such as ‘step-through’ designs, may be registerable as motor scooters, or it may be better to buy a real electric moped which has passed ADR certification. It will be more expensive but it will be legal.

If you are looking at a road-going bike, then you should ask the supplier to confirm that it is legal for use on the road in your state. If they are not sure, you might be best to look elsewhere.

Buying the wrong bike, one that is technically not legal on the roads, can be a problem—or not. Some people ride without problems, others have been pulled over and been told they can no longer ride their bike. This can be a rather expensive problem as you are then left with a bike that is designed purely for on-road use, yet can no longer be used on the road.

Read the full article in ReNew 123


Getting the lead out: Alternatives to old battery technology

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

There have been lots of promises of new battery technologies in recent years, but just how close are we to replacing lead-acid batteries for renewable energy storage? Lance Turner looks at a few advances.


With many countries looking to increase the amount of renewable energy generation, it is generally recognised that a certain amount of high-capacity energy storage will eventually be needed to flatten out load and generation profiles.
To some degree, the coming proliferation of electric vehicles with bi-directional charging systems will provide much of this capacity, but EVs will not achieve a good penetration into the vehicle market until battery prices have fallen considerably.
As mentioned in the EV update article in this issue, leasing batteries instead of buying them can be one solution, but ultimately someone has to pay for the cost of those batteries. What we really need is a low cost battery technology with high energy and power densities, using abundant and environmentally friendly materials. But does such a thing exist?
Until now, large-scale storage has been the domain of lead-acid batteries due to their relatively low cost. But they have a low energy density (around 35 Wh/kg at best) and only medium energy density. This means they are not really suitable for electric vehicles, except for short-range vehicles, and the materials in them are quite toxic, despite being fully recyclable.
There have been a number of attempts to improve lead-acid battery capabilities, such as the CSIRO ultra-battery, but the key problem is that you are dealing with a very dense and therefore heavy material, so any energy density gains are going to be limited.
With the popularity of portable electronics there has been an explosion in lithium chemistry battery developments, with improvements in energy and power density as well as safety. The lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry has shown the most promise, and most current commercial electric vehicles are now using these batteries due to their long cycle life, deep discharge capabilities and high resistance to fire, even when badly damaged.
However, while prices for these batteries have dropped in recent years as demand, and hence production levels have ramped up, a set of LiFePO4 batteries suitable to run the average EV or off-grid renewable energy system is still a considerable upfront cost, even if the long term cost is lower than lead-acid due to higher reliability and longer lifespans.
Indeed, LiFePO4 batteries cost around $500 per kilowatt-hour here in Australia at current prices, not including the battery management system (BMS). This is around twice the price of lead-acid batteries.
While lithium batteries will take over as the main storage chemistry in the near future, what other options are likely to appear, and are there likely to be technologies with higher energy densities and lower costs?
While electric vehicles need energy storage that is light, strong and preferably low cost, not all of the same criteria are necessarily required for stationary storage systems. The main requirements for such systems are reliability, long cycle life and low cost per unit energy stored, but battery weight is generally not an issue.

Read the full article in ReNew 121

Volt front-side

EVs are coming—slowly!

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Where the EV industry is headed


We’ve looked at electric vehicles a number of times in recent years, but progress towards getting them on the road has been slow, at least in Australia. Lance Turner looks at what we can expect to see on our roads in the near future.

It seems the car industry has been promising electric vehicles for quite a while now, but in Australia very little is happening. We have seen the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiEV enter the Australian market a little while ago, but uptake has been slow.

This is mainly due to the high price tags on what are effectively small cars. $50,000 plus is likely to be more than most people will want to pay for a small limited-range vehicle, especially when you look at what’s on offer in other countries.

Other potential causes of a slower than wished for uptake are the perceived issues of limited range, lack of charging infrastructure and lack of incentives to switch to electric vehicles. The rapidly escalating price of electricity in many parts of Australia is also reducing one of the potential advantages of owning an EV—reduced running costs.

However, it should be noted that other advanced technologies were also slow to get started. Hybrid vehicles were initially very slow to interest the consumer, and in fact, at the same point of their introduction, they were far less popular than EVs already are. Yet the Toyota Prius is now one of the biggest selling cars in the world. Toyota has also extended the Prius range and the hybrid drive system is appearing in other models. But, hybrids are still fossil fuel powered cars.

This is where Toyota’s plans get interesting. They are not only going to offer plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius, but are also planning to release pure EVs in the near future. Interestingly, one of those is a rehash of their first original EV from the 90s—the Rav4. Given Toyota’s global distribution network, it’s only a matter of time before the Rav4 arrives on our shores. How it will be priced is another matter entirely.

Image: Called a long-range electric vehicle (LREV), the Volt combines a liquid-cooled 288 cell 16.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack (pictured at right) and 111 kW/370 Nm electric motor to provide up to 87 km battery range. If you need to go further before recharging, a 1.4 litre petrol engine generator kicks in to provide electricity to the electric motor and to recharge the battery, giving unlimited range. The Volt allows you to use it as either a pure EV or as a hybrid when needed.

The standard charging system can use any regular power point and can charge the car in under 10 hours while the fast charge system can charge the car in under four hours.

Read the full article in ReNew 121

Nissan Leaf

Understanding EV emissions

Share : Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Does it really make a difference to your emissions if you buy an EV but run it on fossil-fuel-generated electricity, compared to sticking with the petrol guzzler? Bryce Gaton examines this issue.

You’ve bought an electric vehicle (EV), so you’re no longer using fossil fuel, right? Not quite: if you use electricity generated from fossil fuels, you’re still causing CO2 emissions somewhere—just not in your immediate vicinity.


The question that I address in this article is: Does owning an EV make any difference to your personal transport emissions? To investigate this, I will look at three scenarios for calculating your personal transport CO2 emissions:

  1. Buy an EV for city driving, but do no other CO2 reduction measures
  2. Combine an EV with a solar array at home
  3. Other methods for reduction of CO2 for EV electricity consumption.

Scenario 1:
Buy an EV for city driving, but take no other CO2 reduction measures
For this scenario, the exact answer will depend on where you live. Burning different fossil fuels, such as brown or black coal, or natural gas, produces different amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse pollutants (together referred to as CO2-e: see note 2). On top of this, some states also use hydroelectricity and wind power, which produce significantly less CO2-e emissions.

Therefore, as individual states and territories use different mixes of brown or black coal, natural gas, hydro and wind to generate electricity, any analysis of electricity CO2-e will need to take account of where the EV is used.

A second complication is that the figures generally stated for CO2 emissions for new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars are not the full story. The best figure to use, and the figure used in carbon accounting processes, is CO2-e. A comparison of EVs on fossil-fueled electricity and ICE vehicle emissions needs to be made on an ‘apples with apples’ basis.

Read the full article in ReNew 120.