Tas­ma­nia’s two- wheel hy­brids well out in front

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Clean Energy - Kirsten Lees

AUS­TRALIAN re­searchers have placed them­selves firmly on the world stage with the de­vel­op­ment of a hy­brid scooter ca­pa­ble of driv­ing the 1000km from Melbourne to Syd­ney on just 17 litres of petrol. It amounts to just two fill- ups of the av­er­age 8.6 litre tank.

The scooter, de­vel­oped at the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia’s ( UTAS) School of En­gi­neer­ing, fea­tures state- of- the- art no- emis­sions bat­tery tech­nol­ogy com­bined with an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine that runs on a 40 per cent ethanol/ petrol blend.

Scoot­ers have al­ways rep­re­sented fuel ef­fi­ciency and low run­ning costs. The Hy­dro­gen and Al­lied Re­new­able Tech­nolo­gies re­search team at UTAS wanted to see how much fur­ther they could push the scooter’s green cre­den­tials.

The tech­nol­ogy, which would cost around $ 1500 to retro fit to an ex­ist­ing scooter, is not for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion.

It has been de­vel­oped as part of an ini­tia­tive to build Aus­tralian ca­pa­bil­i­ties in hy­brid tech­nolo­gies from the ground up, ac­cord­ing to Vishy Karri, pro­fes­sor of en­gi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia and leader of the re­search team.

None­the­less, se­nior re­searcher Steven Ambrose, who has helped build the scooter, takes great pride in hav­ing cre­ated a tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity on par with the Ger­man, Ja­panese and Amer­i­cans.

The scooter fea­tures state- of- the- art re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing that charges the bat­ter­ies as the brakes are ap­plied. The bat­ter­ies can also be recharged by plug­ging into the mains, and will recharge com­pletely in 40 min­utes.

A con­trol sys­tem on the han­dle bars al­lows the com­bus­tion en­gine to start up when ex­tra power is re­quired for steep climbs or ac­cel­er­a­tion, and a top speed of 80 km/ h can be achieved when both bat­tery and en­gine com­bine.

Both Honda and Pi­ag­gio ( par­ent com­pany to Vespa, which de­vel­oped the orig­i­nal scooter in Italy in 1946) have an­nounced hy­brid pro­to­types in re­cent times, but nei­ther man­u­fac­turer has yet de­liv­ered a hy­brid scooter to the sales floor.

Since all th­ese ve­hi­cles are still at pro­to­type stage, there is lit­tle em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to mea­sure their rel­a­tive per­for­mance in terms of emis­sions re­duc­tion or the more tra­di­tional mea­sures of a mo­tor ve­hi­cles per­for­mance — speed and ac­cel­er­a­tion.

None­the­less, Karri claims that the UTAS pro­to­type is re­mark­ably dif­fer­ent to other ex­ist­ing pro­to­types.

And the fact that the com­bus­tion en­gine runs on an ethanol blend rather than petrol is a key as­pect of the UTAS scooter’s green­pro­file and an im­por­tant dif­fer­en­tia­tor to the other pro­to­types that have been an­nounced.

In Karri’s opin­ion, the de­vel­op­ment of the hy­brid scooter is one of many par­al­lel projects that are re­quired to build Aus­tralian ex­per­tise in vi­able al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources and to re­duce reliance on petrol.

Hy­dro­gen tech­nolo­gies, biodiesel as an al­ter­na­tive fuel and now the plug- in hy­brids are our ef­forts to re­duce de­pen­dency on petrol in the fu­ture.

The team is build­ing on its suc­cess with the hy­brid scooter, with a range of projects in­clud­ing a mo­tor­bike en­gine that runs on a hy­dro­gen- petrol dual fuel mix, and a mo­tor­bike that runs on a hy­dro­gen fuel cell.

Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults show that a 10 per cent in­jec­tion of hy­dro­gen into the petrol can achieve a 30 per cent re­duc­tion in hy­dro­car­bons and a 25 per cent re­duc­tion in car­bon monox­ide emis­sions, with no re­sul­tant loss of speed. Ini­tial re­sults for the fuel cell have shown gains in ef­fi­ciency of up to 40 per cent.

Green but looks yel­low: Steven Ambrose with the fuel- ef­fi­cient scooter

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