T2 bat­tles black­hole

Uni’s unique car needs cash, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

ACOMPRESSED-AIR city car, built to show­case Aus­tralian in­ge­nu­ity to the world, has hit a fund­ing black­hole.

But Deakin Uni­ver­sity still hopes to have its in­no­va­tive green car on show at next year’s Shang­hai Expo in China.

Project leader Bernard Rolfe re­mains op­ti­mistic the car will reach Shang­hai but, be­cause of a short­age of funds, it will be a slightly dif­fer­ent shape from the form shown pre­vi­ously.

‘‘It will prob­a­bly be more aero­dy­namic, a cut-down ver­sion, but we hope we can put some­thing to­gether. We are work­ing on a light­weight struc­ture,’’ Rolfe says.

A group of stu­dents ini­tially won $30,000 in a global com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by Ford in Detroit to de­sign a 2015 Ford that would be the equiv­a­lent of the Model T in cost, ap­pli­ca­tion and in­ge­nu­ity. The stu­dents called their car T2, for T-squared, a play on the orig­i­nal Ford’s name.

The or­ange three-wheeler was part of Ford’s 100th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions to com­mem­o­rate the Model T.

The three-wheeler is de­signed to run on com­pressed air and to turn 360 de­grees within its own wheel­base to make park­ing easy in crowded cities such as Shang­hai.

The pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Ford Global Tech­nolo­gies, Bill Cough­lin, was im­pressed with the qual­ity of the en­tries, which pushed the bound­aries of de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing.

‘‘So far no other ve­hi­cle has made such an im­pact on the lives of mil­lions, and Ford chal­lenged stu­dents to present an al­ter­na­tive that just might do so again,’’ he says.

A full-size T2 mock-up model, funded by the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment, was built with help from C5 Sys­tems, McDow­ell and Venn and Soldani Bros for Vic­to­ria’s Au­to­mo­tive week and the Mel­bourne Mo­tor Show this year.

The car needs about $1 mil­lion to be­come a full-size work­ing pro­to­type.

The Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment has given $100,000 and the uni­ver­sity is now work­ing with the Au­to­mo­tive Co-op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre to de­liver the car in time.

‘‘It will be tight but we’ll do it,’’ Rolfe says.

He says he would be happy if an en­tre­pre­neur dipped in to help get the car to Shang­hai.

‘‘We are show­ing off Aus­tralian in­ge­nu­ity on the world stage,’’ he says. ‘‘There are some good ideas with the car’s tech­nol­ogy.’’

Rolfe says the car will exhibit about $3 mil­lion of re­search and en­gi­neer­ing know-how.

When Deakin planned the orig­i­nal T2, it was built to pro­vide some in­no­va­tive green so­lu­tions to mod­ern motoring.

The small ve­hi­cle uses in-wheel motors that re­place the con­ven­tional petrol en­gine, and com­pressed nat­u­ral gas for longer dis­tances.

The wheels are car­bon fi­bre for strength and light­ness and it is planned the body will use a high­strength metal lam­i­nate de­signed by Can­berra firm Elaco.

The Elaco ma­te­rial is light and elas­tic enough to cope with mi­nor col­li­sions.

The car met its goal of be­ing sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal Model T: light, prac­ti­cal, com­pelling and cheap. Rolfe says the T2 has a pro­jected price of $9000.

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