Tasmania’s two- wheel hybrids well out in front
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