T2 battles blackhole
Uni’s unique car needs cash, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.