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Circa 1895-1915

The following cartoon appeared on page 15 of the August 1972 edition of ELECTRIC VEHICLE NEWS (USA):

Circa JUNE 1981

The Energy Authority of New South Wales was established by NSW Premier Wran after the ALP became the government in 1976. Soon afterwards the energy scare started with fears that the world was rapidly running out of oil. As a consequence, the population had to be made aware of the fact that there was an energy crisis and measures needed to be taken to protect and preserve our resources. If, in the year 2007, this all sounds a bit like de ja vu, that is because it is!! It appears that when the Energy-Savers Handbook was published in mid-1981 in NSW, people around the world generally did not take seriously the threat of global warming and running out of oil. Plus ca change - as the French would say!!

The section of the Energy Authority in which I was working at the time was involved in the acquisition and testing of electric vehicles. It was in this context that I put together the article below for the Energy-Savers Handbook. Now we need to look at films like "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which is linked below to a site which tells about the film.

Energy Savers' Handbook circa June 1981

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Energy Savers' Handbook circa June 1981

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Energy Savers' Handbook circa June 1981

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Energy Savers' Handbook circa June 1981

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Energy Savers' Handbook circa June 1981

Bedford Van Electric Vehicle

During 1981, as we were building up our fleet of electric vehicles, I suggested that we should have some distinctive registration on the vehicles, to make the public aware of the research programme with which we were involved, so we started with EV2000. The picture above, taken at the exit of the building in which the Energy Authority had its offices, at 1 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, shows one of the two Bedford vans which had been converted to electric drive, and driven from Tasmania to Sydney a year or two earlier. I am shown in the photo pointing to the number plate EV2010.

The above cartoon was on the front page of a paper presented at a Seminar sponsored by the Victorian Division of the AUSTRALIAN ELECTRIC VEHICLE ASSOCIATION as part of the 4th International ELECTRICAL ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, MEASUREMENT & CONTROL (EEMC) Convention and Exhibition - believed to be between 1980 and 1983.


21-30 AUGUST 1981


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1981 electric vehicle at motor show

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1981 electric vehicle at motor show

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1981 electric vehicle at motor show

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1981 electric vehicle at motor show
1981 electric vehicles at motor show

These photos show the Energy Authority Electric Vehicle stand at the 1981 Motor Show. The electric vehicles shown are the Bedford Van, converted to electric drive by engineers from the Authority, a Suzuki van and Triumph TR7 sports car converted by Automation at Bankstown, and Silent Power, converted by a company called Silent Power.


Cartoon by Mannie De Saxe, Energy Authority of New South Wales, 10 APRIL 1981.

18 FEBRUARY 2008

Mannie De Saxe
2/12 Murphy Grove
Vic 3072
Phone: 03 9471 4878
email: red-jos_at_red-jos_net

30 years ago, when Neville Wran was Premier of News South Wales, there was a fuel crisis when it was feared the world was running out of oil faster than had previously been anticipated.

Wran reacted to the crisis by establishing the Energy Authority of NSW which had, as one of its mandates, research into alternative fuels for motor vehicles.

I was one of the engineers involved with the establishment of this division, which received funding from the federal and state governments from the late 1970s for research.

We established a fleet of electric vehicles - about 10 altogether - and we called them "The First Fleet". We continued to test electric vehicles until governments decided the crisis was over and the funding dried up in the early 1980s.

Part of our research into alternative energy in vehicles was the use of rape seed oil in diesels. South Africa and other countries were already experimenting, quite successfully, with sunflower oil and other vegetable oils, with a fair amount of success.

All of our research came to an end by 1985, and Australia is now, nearly 30 years later, reinventing the wheel! (Gordon Drennan, Letters, 16/2 and Letters, 18/2) Will we never learn?

Mannie De Saxe, Research Engineer (retired)


As a research engineer with the Energy Authority of New South Wales from 1980 to 1988 I was involved with the "Alternative Energy in Vehicles" project from 1980 to 1985. The funding for this research was provided by the federal and state governments. The initiative had been Neville Wran's when he became Premier of NSW in 1976 and shortly afterwards there appeared to be a world energy crisis with the fear that the world was running out of oil.

Our first mandate was to establish a fleet of electric vehicles, which our research team's leading engineer had been working on for some years in Tasmania. He brought two vehicles with him from Tasmania as the start of the project and our vehicle fleet grew from there. We ended up with ten vehicles and ran tests and experiments with them, but didn't get to do comprehensive work on our results because the crisis appeared to be over by about 1983 and our funding dried up.

I have recently established a web site to try and build some sort of an archive of our work, and have illustrated it with some of the vehicles with which we were working.

As a consequence of letters and articles in The Age newspaper, I wrote a letter to The Age, which they decided, as ever, not to publish. Fortunately I have web pages and a blog, and so am able to publish them myself. The items will appear below in as sequential a date order as I can place them in, starting with an article which was the first item to discuss electric vehicles.

Electric car uses sun to show watts driving the future

Hyundai Getz electric car

Alan Gray holds the plug of his converted Hyundai Getz, which he considers the most ecologically advanced car in Australia.

Photo: Justin Mcmanus

Latest related coverage

Orietta Guerrera

February 15, 2008

ALAN Gray reckons he is driving the most ecologically advanced car in Australia. To other motorists it is just another zippy hatchback. But open the petrol cap and there's a surprise.

The Trentham man's new Hyundai Getz has been converted to electric power. He uses an extension cord to plug the car into a power point, charges it overnight and drives away. Using power from solar panels above his office, it costs only 97 cents to drive 100 kilometres. "What this shows is that there's no reason that here and now, today, we can't run our homes and our cars on solar," Mr Gray said.

The converted car — dubbed the "Blade Runner" — can get from zero to 60 km/h in just over seven seconds, compared with six seconds for a standard vehicle. And it can comfortably travel at 110 km/h.

The catch? The $49,000 price tag. Mr Gray admits he is "driving the most expensive little four-door car in Australia". But he says the price will drop as more of the cars hit the road.

His hatchback will be on show at the Sustainability Festival, Federation Square, from today until Sunday.

With soaring petrol prices and growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions, even the world's largest car manufacturers concede electric cars may be the solution to the globe's environmental and energy problems. But although the electric car allows drivers to use renewable energy, critics argue it will do little to slash emissions if it is run on brown coal-generated electricity.

The car is the brainchild of Blade Electric Vehicles director Ross Blade.

After several prototypes, it is the first production vehicle assembled at his Castlemaine headquarters. He said the car would become "cost-neutral" after five years.

Four of the cars have been sold. However, there is little future if Mr Blade cannot secure a contract to supply the Government fleet. To date he has funded his own work.

"Without government orders it all becomes a rather brief page in Australian automotive history," he said.

-------------------------------------------------------------- 16 February 2008

Let's go nuclear

YES, an electric car like Alan Gray's converted Hyundai Getz (The Age, 15/2) is a great idea, but those people claiming that they are a viable alternative to a petrol car now just aren't being honest. If you recharge an electric car from a power point it emits just as much CO2 as a petrol-powered car because mains power comes from burning an even dirtier fuel: coal. And if you recharge it from solar cells, that requires tens of thousands of dollars worth of them. Depending on how you recharge it an electric car is either no greener than a petrol car, or hugely more expensive.

Of course, if our electric power was being generated in nuclear power plants, which have lots of overnight spare capacity and generate no CO2, like France, it would be completely different. Thanks to the decision to go nuclear, France is in a win-win situation. It has the lowest contribution to climate change of any developed country, and it will be able to move much of its transport away from ever scarcer, more expensive and dirty petroleum. Electric cars and nuclear power are a perfect fit.

Gordon Drennan, Burton, SA

------------------------------------------------------- 18 February 2008

Go diesel, and save

GORDON Drennan (Letters, 16/2) is correct to say an electric car powered by coal-fired electricity can produce as much carbon dioxide as a petrol car, but this comparison is too simplistic. It is equally accurate to say that an efficient electric car can produce a lot less CO2 than an inefficient petrol car and vice versa. There is no need to wait decades for nuclear power plants in order to run all those electric cars. The simplest solution available now to substantially reduce Australia's CO2 emissions from cars is to switch the bulk of the fleet to diesel.

Unfortunately diesel cars cost thousands more than their petrol siblings. In the long term, demand will fix this, but in the short term subsidies on the fuel or the car would go a long way. Diesel is a non-renewable resource, like coal and uranium, but, unlike these two, it can be produced from vegetable oil and, in the longer term, from agricultural and forest waste.

Martin Strandgard, research fellow, University of Melbourne, Richmond

Nuclear no answer

WRONG, Gordon Drennan. Nuclear power is not the answer to our prayers for carbon-free electricity generation. In fact, mining and processing uranium ores, fuel enrichment and building nuclear power plants produce enormous quantities of greenhouse gas. This aspect of nuclear power is conveniently ignored by proponents.

There are many other negatives, of course — not least the long-term storage required for the most toxic, dangerous waste known to humankind.

We're just going to have to consider using a range of genuinely carbon-free alternatives for our electricity production, becoming more energy-efficient and, yes, reduce consumption. That's what true sustainability entails. We have to wean ourselves off a reliance on the public relations spinners in the nuclear and other carbon-producing electricity generators, and accept that the alternatives are possible.

Helen Lewers, Napoleons
-----------------------------------------------------------------19 February 2008

Down with trams

MELBOURNE'S tram system is a major factor in our road traffic problems. The technology is obsolete and cannot be refined. The system consumes and wastes enormous amounts of coal-generated power, the capital and recurring costs of building and maintaining rolling stock drain the public purse, and the pollution of wires, poles, steel tracks and screeching steel wheels are negative factors in our enjoyment of this beautiful city.

St Kilda Road would be better served by a flexible and low-fare bus system on the service lanes. This would enable bus stops to be kerb-side, next to footpaths.

This ultra-conservative Government should invest in bus technology and fuel systems, and restructure the road-taxing and operational structures to the benefit of clean, flexible and user-friendly public transport.

Mervyn Jenkins, Berwick

Oil-drinking buses are no improvement

MERVYN Jenkins' (Letters, 19/2) view is astonishingly short-sighted and utterly contradictory. His claims that a trail of hundreds of loud, stinky, combustion engine buses would increase the enjoyment of this beautiful city, more so than electric trams, is truly laughable.

While the tram network in Melbourne is largely powered by coal-fired electricity, there is nothing stopping us from adapting it to use renewable energy, once it is available on the grid. Adding hundreds more oil-drinking buses removes the renewable-electric option, solves nothing and guarantees emissions from fossil fuel or dependence on unsustainable bio-diesel. One can be certain that Mervyn doesn't use public transport and drives a guzzling 4WD each day, right into the CBD.

Adam Gilbert, Prahran

Go underground

MERVYN Jenkins is right that trams contribute to congestion on our roads, but he's wrong that we need to get rid of them.

Instead, as the headline says, they need to go down: beneath the surface. Light-rail subways have been used successfully in many cities in Germany as a halfway between a full metro system and road-based trams.

Subway light-rail systems can continue to use roads in the outer suburbs and the CBD but be sent underground on congested inner-suburban routes, such as St Kilda Road or Victoria Street. Light-rail subways are also cheaper and more flexible than heavy-rail subways; many trams can be linked for increased capacity, but they can also manage steeper grades and tighter corners, giving more choices when designing routes for tunnels.

Finally, a light-rail subway could be the beginning of the end of the process begun in the 1980s with the founding of the Met, and conceptually integrate the tram and train systems.

Tristan McLeay, Endeavour Hills--------------------------------------------------------------------- 20 February 2008

Consumers hold power over petrol engine's replacement

Steve Colquhoun
February 20, 2008

Car makers are moving towards an alternative fuel, but which one?

AN ENGROSSING worldwide battle is being waged to find a new fuel source to replace, or supplement, our absolute dependence on petrol-powered cars.

This dependence was highlighted on Sunday when Ford Australia launched its crucial new model, the FG Falcon, without mention of a diesel option or suggestion of alternative fuel technology. Yes, an LPG option carries over from the previous model, and economy improvements in the realm of 2% for its volume-selling inline six-cylinder engine aren't to be sneezed at, but it missed the opportunity for an Australian car maker to take the lead towards a fossil-fuel-free future.

It's 10 years since Toyota launched the Prius hybrid car with its revolutionary petrol-electric motor, and, in the meantime, several other leading car makers have also spent heavily on alternative fuel research and prototypes. But it was only at the Geneva Motor Show last March that there appeared to be industry-wide acceptance that green initiatives deserved at least an equivalent pedestal with horsepower.

Giant US-based car maker General Motors, a corporation with much to lose from the petrol engine's demise, has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow US car makers Ford and Chrysler to rail against fuel efficiency targets imposed by the US Government. But in a startling about-face, chief executive Rick Wagoner last month stood at the automotive world's epicentre, the Detroit Motor Show, and acknowledged the awful truth.

Awful for GM, because it is a car company built around a muscular heritage derived from gas-guzzling V8-powered marques such as the Chevrolet, Corvette and Camaro. Like Ford and Chrysler, GM has traditionally pursued a "bigger is better" approach to cars and engines.

Against this landscape, Wagoner cited US Department of Energy figures showing that the world consumes about 1000 barrels of oil for every second of every day, a figure — at current rates of consumption — expected to increase by 70% within 20 years.

Does a historically belligerent giant multinational suddenly develop an environmental conscience? The fact that the next day Wagoner launched one of the most powerful sports cars on the planet, the 6.2-litre, supercharged V8 Corvette ZR-1, casts some doubt over GM's sincerity. More likely, it has been sniffing the wind as public opinion about depletion of fossil fuels and about pollutants has swung from ambivalence, to interest and, more recently, active alarm. Although GM has dabbled in the past in alternative forms of propulsion, it has evidently decided its best — and most profitable — course lies in surfing the new wave.

GM is not the only manufacturer to have had its hand forced on the issue, but it is the largest and latest to make such a public turnaround. It has committed to a two-stage solution, linking with a US producer of ethanol to champion biofuel blends as a short-term solution until it can produce a workable battery-powered car — something it thinks possible by 2010.

By contrast, German prestige brand BMW has been insisting for years that the hydrogen fuel cell is the answer, even rolling out a fleet of 100 cars equipped with an engine that can run on either petrol or hydrogen. It has only recently admitted that it will be 15 to 20 years before infrastructure will be sufficient to put hydrogen-powered cars on the road in significant numbers. Meanwhile, BMW, too, will examine producing a plug-in electric car. In Japan, Toyota and Honda continue to refine their work in hybrid (petrol-electric) technology, with Toyota also planning to have a plug-in electric car on the road in 2010. Korean giant Hyundai is working on hydrogen, hybrid and electric technologies.

Each technology, though, has its own set of problems. Electric cars will place a huge new load on the power grid, with exponentially more atmosphere-destroying brown coal needing to be mined and burnt to satisfy the demand. Hydrogen cars, meanwhile, emit water from their exhaust, and their mass use could create permanently slippery, dangerous roads. Biofuels derived from cereal crops are time, space and resource intensive and, according to environmental scientists, economically unsustainable at large volumes.

The fact that there is no silver bullet solution is a cause of great anxiety to car companies looking to protect their balance sheets and deliver profits to shareholders. And research and development threatens to become a bottomless money pit.

Manufacturers want to sell cars and turn a profit. They are under no moral obligation to save the world. It is only when the former necessitates the latter — as manufacturers are now realising — that meaningful progress and even inter-company collaboration finally occurs. It's up to consumers to keep the pressure firmly on, to arm themselves with knowledge, to ensure the winner of this battle has not just any solution, but the right one. Car buyers have never had more choice in models, segments and now, fuel sources. Ultimately it is the consumers who will vote with their hearts, minds and wallets for the winning formula.

Steve Colquhoun is a freelance motoring writer.
21 February 2008

My cute new electric car? It's a little ray of sunshine

Alan Gray
February 21, 2008

SINCE my new electric car appeared in The Age ("Electric car uses sun to show watts driving the future", 15/2), letters to the editor have taken different views of its consequences. One writer claims people like me are not being "honest"; the second urges diesel fuel and the third highlights the real dangers of nuclear.

All seem to have overlooked solar power. The solar panels on my office roof can recharge my car — a four-door, five-seater hatchback with lithium ion batteries where the petrol tank sat. The genius of Harcourt designer Ross Blade is in producing a little car that is just as user-friendly and has all the acceleration, performance and accessories of its petrol equivalent, but can be recharged from the sun or wind.

Australians have embraced grid-connected solar power systems in droves since the Federal Government doubled the rebate last year to $8000. Since then there has been a 500% increase in installation of systems that generate solar power during the day and draw power from the mains grid at night or when it's cloudy. This two-way flow of electricity is automatic, and free of any maintenance or batteries. You're buying mains power when you need to, and "selling" solar power when you have an excess.

Such systems should be mandatory for all new homes and major renovations, given that hot summers threaten power cuts just when these solar power systems are pumping their peak watts into the grid. Over the course of a year a solar system — costing $14,000, less the $8000 government rebate and another $500 of Renewable Energy Credits — will generate about as much electricity as it costs to pay back that $5500 investment. That's before the 25% to 30% mains power price hikes possible over the next three years.

The solar panels will last for 30 years and, according to the US Government's Renewable Energy Laboratory, will generate the energy required to make them in 18 months or less.

But even if you're not considering adding this $5500 to your mortgage, there's green power, a brilliant scheme that allows anyone to pay extra on their electricity bill to have it all generated from solar or wind. The system is fully audited and doesn't raise the serious doubts of the myriad "carbon offset" schemes now on offer.

Once you sign up to green power, your accredited electricity retailer generates — from wind or solar — the equivalent amount of power that you consume. Of course, you don't get "green electrons" into your house, but the grid gets added renewable energy capacity — and reduced coal capacity — every time someone signs up.

APRIL 2008


The magazine of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) has the following two items in its April 2008 edition on electric vehicles, one a letter, the other an article. Meantime, back in the 1890s--------!

The letter is headed


There is a growing band of inspired motorists, of which I am one, who have made the conscious decision not to buy a new vehicle until the 19th century internal combustion engine is replaced. We cannot stand by and ignore the ecological solutions which means we will not buy more of the same. Contrast the failed Mitsubishi 380 with the encouraging Blade Runner brought out by Blade Electric vehicles in Castlemaine. The latter car replaces the poisonous petrol powerplant with clean solar power sourced from panels at home or office. We just need that car to be made in commercial quantities and we can all get on board.

Andrew Kaszick, Altona Meadows

Here is the article by Bill McKinnon:

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ev article page1

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ev article page2

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ev article page3

2 APRIL 2008

This very brief, but to-the-point letter was in The Age newspaper on 2 April 2008, and it says it all!!:

We don't need to make big cars or small ones, we just need to make electric cars.

Wayne Nattrass, Ringwood North

16 JUNE 2008

This information comes from the web site of the University of South Australia, and was discovered after The Age article below was published in that paper:

Trev (two-seater renewable energy vehicle)

Suppose you decided that you weren't going to use fossil fuels anymore. How would you get around?

Solar racing cars are able to travel 750km per day, at highway speeds, powered only by sunlight. Surely it is possible to use similar technologies to build a car in which you could do your daily commuting, but without the noise and pollution of a petrol engine.

Staff and students at the University of South Australia have designed and built such a car—Trev. Its features include:

two comfortable seats, since more than 90% of urban trips have only one or two people in the car;
enough luggage space for at least two overnight bags;
300 kg mass—because using a 2.5 tonne vehicle for commuting is ridiculous;
energy-efficient tyres, brakes and suspension;
a clean, quiet and efficient electric drive system;
compliance with road safety and worthiness regulations;
good performance, with a top speed of 120 km/h; and
150 km of city driving before the car must be recharged.

Most importantly, it uses less than 1/5 of the energy required by a conventional car, and can be recharged using electricity from clean, renewable sources such as solar and wind.

And it doesn't look too bad...


The tandem seating layout gives good aerodynamics, good balance, and good vision.
The acrylic canopy gives the driver an unimpeded view of the road.
The canopy and door open on the kerb side of the car.
The electric motor gives smooth, quiet acceleration from 0–100 km/h in under 10 seconds.
A composite tub chassis, with foam and plastic body panels, gives a total car mass of 300 kg.
A 45 kg lithium ion polymer battery gives over 150km of city driving.
Low-energy tyres on low-mass alloy wheels give low rolling resistance.
The single rear drive wheel simplifies the suspension, and allows a simple, efficient transmission.


In October 2007 we drove Trev from Darwin to Adelaide in the Greenfleet Technology Class of the World Solar Challenge. For most of the journey, we drove 80 - 120 km at speeds of 80 - 90 km/h before stopping to recharge from a generator. We completed the 3020 km trip in just over 6 days.

Our energy consumption was 6.2 kWh/100 km. Recharged from solar, wind or hydro, there are no emissions.

Electricity costs about $0.18 per kWh. The cost of recharging Trev is 1.1 cents per kilometre, so the entire journey cost us $33 of electricity

It makes petrol look silly.

The following article was in The Age, 16 June 2008:

JUNE 2008

This letter was published in "RoyalAuto" JUNE 2008 - the monthly journal of RACV:

JULY 2008

.........and my response was published in "RoyalAuto - JULY 2008:

28 JUNE 2008

........and, yes, we ARE reinventing the wheel!!!!

This article appeared in The Age newspaper's Drive supplement - the section relating to vehicles - on 28 June 2008:

Shift to electric cars becomes inevitable

Joshua Dowling,, June 16, 2008

Petrol engines will increasingly give way to electric power over the next decade.

The plug-in Chevrolet Volt will be on sale in the US in 2010 and is expected in Australia in 2012.

The race is on to build the first hybrid car locally. The types of cars we drive will change dramatically over the next five to 10 years but, meanwhile, we will see more hybrid vehicles as we move to what the industry calls "the gradual electrification of the motor car".

In other words, the petrol engines will get smaller and electric engines will get bigger until, eventually, we have the electric-only car. That's about 10 years away. A lot is going to happen between now and then.

In the coming years there will be countless calls for governments to reduce fuel excise and other taxes on fuel. There will be road blockades by truck operators here and overseas. But these will not sway the inevitable.

Some experts reckon unleaded petrol will be $2 a litre by the end of 2008 and $3 by the end of 2009. Freaking out? Petrol is still cheaper here than it is in Europe and Britain.

The admission earlier this year by the world's biggest car maker, General Motors, that oil was indeed running out was the clearest sign yet of the change in the makers' attitudes. The company that killed the electric car is now going full speed ahead on electric vehicle development. It has subsequently announced the closure of four pick-up truck factories in the US and is considering selling off the Hummer brand.

Car makers hate being hostage to unstable oil prices as this plays havoc with their business plans. Cars take five years to develop from a clean sheet of paper. So manufacturers are making decisions on what types of cars we want to drive at least five years before they're in showrooms. As we've seen, the world can change a lot in that time, as it has done in the past two years, let alone the past five.

Sure, we may see brief reprieves in oil prices when the oil-producing nations want to boost their cash reserves but, in the end, it's a finite resource that the world is using more of at a time when we are nearing the end of easily accessible, good quality crude.

High-performance cars and other gas guzzlers won't die but they will become increasingly expensive as their demand diminishes over time.There will be no single solution to propelling our cars but several. To date this has been a problem as the world's leading car makers have gone off in different directions and tried to cover as many bases as possible.

Hydrogen was tipped as an ideal solution (the only thing leaving the exhaust pipe is water clean enough to drink) and it is still in the picture - but establishing effective distribution networks is a constant hurdle and there's still the issue of sourcing hydrogen, which uses more energy to produce from water than you get out of it. It's a chicken-and-egg dilemma. What comes first: hydrogen refuelling stations or hydrogen cars?

Fed up with waiting for hydrogen suppliers and governments to get their acts together, car makers have most recently embraced electric power. It's readily available and battery technology has developed so fast that motorists won't have to sacrifice too much driving range.

Environmentalists no doubt will say electric cars simply move the emissions from the exhaust pipe to coal-fired power stations. They'd be right. But consider this: what has the power industry done to reduce its emissions over the past 50 years compared with the car?Passenger cars emit 7 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gases. Energy production - namely burning coal - is responsible for 50 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. So why are cars the scapegoat in the energy debate? Why not move the onus onto energy producers? As the biggest polluters, they've got the most to gain. Instead, we've been playing at the margins with cars.

It is true that the most environmentally friendly car is one you don't buy. And, in theory, hanging onto an old banger may be better for the environment - even though it will emit more pollution than a modern car - because each new car built still leaves a sizeable carbon footprint. Then safety comes into the debate, however. As we reported last week, many of today's small cars are safer than large sedans that are barely 10 years old.

So assuming new cars are better for our health and safety, what can we expect?

To recap, hybrid cars are a stepping stone. The announcement this week that Toyota would build 10,000 hybrid Camrys in 2010, and that a hybrid Holden Commodore will not be far behind it, has sent some people into a spin.

But there is nothing to fear. Hybrid cars drive just like normal cars - and you don't have to plug them in - but the rumble of the engine is replaced with an eerie silence when stopped at the lights or moving along at a crawl in stop-start traffic.

Today's hybrid cars still have a petrol engine under the bonnet but its power is supplemented by an electric motor.

Toyota's Prius hybrid, of which more than 1 million examples have been sold, and the Camry counterpart use an electric motor to move from rest and then the petrol engine kicks in seamlessly about 40km/h. Moving a car from rest is when cars use most fuel; conversely, coasting at freeway speeds is when petrol engines are most efficient.

A large battery hidden under the floor or in the boot powers the car's radio, air-conditioning and other electric functions when the car is stopped in traffic. The battery is recharged automatically when the car is coasting or braking.

The batteries in hybrid cars are designed to last the life of the vehicle, said to be at least 10 years. To date, Toyota Australia has not had to replace a hybrid battery under warranty. The batteries are removed and recycled when the car is eventually scrapped.

Hybrid power tends to make sense in medium-sized or large cars because the extra weight and cost can be absorbed into the vehicle.

Petrol-electric hatchbacks the size of a Toyota Yaris don't make sense because the extra weight (hybrid systems add up to 200 kilograms) would blunt their efficiency, the extra cost would diminish their appeal, and the basic models are relatively fuel-efficient anyway.Would you pay $25,000 for a hybrid Yaris that used only 1.0 or 2.0 litres/100km less than the regular $17,000 model?

Didn't think so. It would take about 10 years to make up the price premium in fuel savings.A Prius uses about 4.5L/100km, a Yaris uses about 6.0L/100km. In comparison, a Camry hybrid is expected to use about 7.0L/100km. A Holden Commodore V6, Australia's biggest selling car, uses about 11.0L/100km.

Critics of hybrid cars say they're not efficient at freeway speeds and it's true this is when they should be least effective. But real-world experience shows a worst-case scenario of 5.5L/100km for something like the Prius. The heavier, more powerful Lexus hybrids will use signifficantly more; sometimes over 10L/100km.

I know of several Prius owners who travel long distances on country roads and routinely get 900km out of each tank, equivalent to using 4.5L/100km. The beauty of hybrid technology is that you're not using any fuel while the car is stopped in traffic.

Not long after the hybrid Camry arrives, we should see the hybrid Commodore.Holden's Asia-Pacific boss let slip a couple of weeks ago that a hybrid Commodore was coming "in two years" but executives have since tried to pretend the comments were never made.

But what we know is this: Holden is not only working on hybrid technology (to be shared with GM vehicles in the US, which is how the company can afford to develop it) but also a range of more efficient petrol and LPG engines.

The Commodore's new direct-injection petrol engines (which use less fuel than regular fuel-injection systems, as it sprays the petrol directly into the combustion chamber) and a dedicated LPG system should be in showrooms in the next 12 to 18 months.But imagine an LPG hybrid Commodore. Holden has not spoken about this publicly but surely the boffins at Holden have not only considered this but are working on one as we speak. In terms of cost per kilometre, such a vehicle could be even cheaper to run than a Camry.

By about 2012 there should be at least one car on sale in Australia that you'll be able to recharge overnight. More will follow.

General Motors in the US is developing a car called the Volt that has a battery-only driving range of about 64 kilometres, equivalent to the average distance most Americans drive to and from work every day. The so-called plug-in hybrid car takes about eight hours to recharge.If you need to drive further, the Volt comes with a built-in petrol engine that powers a generator to recharge the on-board battery, kicking in automatically as the system senses the battery power is running low. The petrol engine switches off again once the battery is fully recharged. This brings the maximum driving range to 1030km. An electric car that could be driven from Sydney to Brisbane between recharges would be quite a feat.

Of all the technology that's imminent, this is the one I'm most excited about. It's especially ironic that it is coming from the same company that killed its earlier electric car, the EV-1 of the 1990s. It may just show big corporations aren't as silly as we think they are.The Volt sounds like science fiction but it's coming. The car (about the size of a Holden Astra) will be on sale in the US in 2010 but GM executives have already said exports - including to Australia - will follow.

Nissan has recently joined the plug-in bandwagon and declared its belief in electric power for commuter cars. Other makers are no doubt working on similar technology now that GM and Toyota - the world's two biggest brands - have announced their intentions to head down the electric car path.

Meanwhile, the most affordable ticket to an economical and safe car are models such as the Toyota Yaris and Mazda2. They cost between $15,000 and $22,000, sip about 6.0L/100km and are available with side and curtain airbag options for $750 and $1100 (which also includes stability control) respectively. If you don't need a big vehicle, they make a mockery of hybrid cars.

Makes sense in medium and large cars because the extra weight and cost can be absorbed into the rest of the vehicle. Drives like a normal car, needs fuel like a normal car but runs silently when stopped or moving slowly. The batteries last the life of the vehicle and are eventually recycled when the car is scrapped. However, a hybrid car doesn't necessarily make financial sense. A base Camry four-cylinder (9.9 litres/100km) costs about $30,000. A hybrid Camry (about 7.0L/100km) is expected to cost about $35,000. To make up the premium in fuel savings would take a few years, using the Australian average motor vehicle distance travelled as a guide.


Unleaded petrol engines are their most efficient when cruising between 80kmh and 100kmh, which is why hybrids are so efficient because the electric motor moves the car from rest. Ethanol-blended fuel is not the magic bullet everyone thinks it is. Ethanol burns faster than regular unleaded and so you get less driving range out of each tank.


Only really makes financial sense in large four-wheel-drives and heavy vehicles, especially now that the price difference from unleaded is about 22 cents a litre. Diesel cars may be more efficient and better for the environment than petrol cars - they produce less carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre travelled) but even so-called "clean diesels" are bad for our health.


One of the unsung heroes of the energy debate. It's cheaper than unleaded (for now) but you burn about 50 per cent more LPG to travel the same distance as a petrol-only car. Holden is said to be working on new LPG technology which, if combined with the Commodore's hybrid system due by 2011, could be a more cost-efficient alternative to the Camry hybrid.

See Drive's green motoring guide for more information on environmentally friendly motoring.

8 MAY 2009

This article was in The AGE newspaper:

The little green car that pays for itself

by Alan Gray

The efforts of households to cut carbon emissions should not let big polluters off the hook.

RECHARGING an electric car in Victoria would produce about as much carbon dioxide as running a small petrol hatchback — so there would be no benefit. That's been the message in recent media items.

My family have been driving a four-door, fully electric hatchback for more than a year now and we're yet to burn a single gram of carbon dioxide.

Our converted Hyundai Getz, the "Electron" produced by Blade Electric Vehicles in Castlemaine, goes at least 120 km/h, and has all the zip and acceleration of a petrol car, without any of the noise or pollution.

It's an urban runabout, designed for the 75 per cent of the world's daily car journeys that are 70 kilometres or less. The car has a range of 120 kilometres between recharges, which we do by plugging the car into an ordinary power point in our carport each night.

And because it's a company car with associated tax deductions, it should pay for its $43,000 purchase price, thanks to fuel and service savings, in five years.

Is there any other car that will "pay for itself" on any time frame, long or short?

We are yet to encounter a single problem with this car after 12,000 kilometres of intensive, everyday driving. The car is so impressive that the New Zealand Environment Minister, Nick Smith, now drives one as his ministerial vehicle, and Hyundai NZ are planning to import 200 in the next year.

So how do we avoid producing any carbon dioxide when recharging? Our household, and office, subscribe to GreenPower, so our electricity retailer is audited each year to produce the same amount of electricity from new renewable sources, such as wind farms or solar parks.

More than 900,000 Australian businesses and households now subscribe to GreenPower. The scheme has been a superb success — even though many politicians and journalists (particularly motoring journalists in my experience) have never heard of it. Virtually every electricity retailer in Australia now offers GreenPower. It's an instant and positive way that householders can start to reduce their carbon footprint.

Of course, you don't receive the actual green electrons down your wire, but if your household consumes an average of, say, 6700 kilowatt hours per year of electricity, once you sign up to GreenPower your electricity retailer is required to source that equivalent number of kilowatt hours from renewable sources.

Usually I have to fight my wife, Judith, for a drive of "Little Miss Sunshine" because she loves it so much. We often have two adults in the front, two large children in the back, and the boot full of shopping; and even with the solar or wind-powered air-conditioning blasting on a hot day, the car zips up any hills as happily as a smelly 20th-century car.

Does all this sound too good to be true? Of course it does, and it may be if Prime Minister Kevin Rudd doesn't amend his proposed emissions trading scheme legislation to properly count voluntary carbon reductions by individuals and households.

As the draft legislation stands, none of the contributions made to date by householders by paying for GreenPower will count towards reducing Australia's carbon cap. All these existing voluntary reductions will simply ease the pressure on big polluters — they will have to cut less because we have all cut more. Stinks like a tip full of methane, if you ask me. And experts, like Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute, predict that the GreenPower scheme will die overnight if the legislation is not amended. Why should householders reward the shareholders of giant electricity companies by making the cuts the companies should make?

The new Australian Carbon Trust announced by Rudd on Monday is a bureaucratic Band-Aid made to look like the Government is dealing with this issue. The trust is a poor response to this problem because it would force households or businesses to pay twice: once when they make the carbon reductions, and again when donating to the trust.Contrast this with large polluters who won't even pay once because of their massive "compensation payments", or corporate welfare.

Please, Prime Minister, don't kill off our 100 per cent renewable car and home power charging sources. Change your legislation to properly account for voluntary carbon reductions, and ask your department heads to buy fleets of this brilliant, Australian-invented, all-electric car. That will drive down the unit cost and make this world-beating car available to even more families.

Alan Gray is editor of Earth Garden magazine and Green Power Today.

15 MAY 2009

The January 2009 edition of the South African "Advanced Materials Today" journal arrived in Melbourne during the second week of May 2009.

An article headed "Cutting Edge Technology" on page 22 of the journal, by the marketing administrator of Mecad Systems, Liezl van der Westhuizen, discussed the work of Mecad, with the information that one of their programmes "Solid Works is a versatile CAD programme for mechanical engineers. It is also one of the cornerstones of what we do."

Liezel went on to say that "car enthusiasts will also know that . . . . . . . .SolidWorks was also instrumental in the design of South Africa's first fully electric car, the stylishly innovative Joule car, which was premiered last year (2008) and is scheduled to be in production by 2010."

The photos below accompanied the article about the Joule, and will certainly be of interest to electric vehicle enthusiasts everywhere.

JUNE 2009

Mitsubishi is one step away from being the first modernmanufacturer with a mass-produced electric-powered vehiclein Australia.

The abstrusely named i MiEV(“innovative Mitsubishi Electric Vehicle”) has met allrelevant design rules, and all that stands in the way is theresult of real-world testing, and dare it be said, an effective“pricing arrangement” that would make i MiEV economicallyviable for Australians.

The four-seater i MiEV takes advantage of advances inlithium-ion battery technology (the type associated with mobile phones),and has a bank of 88 batteries under the floor. The result is an urban commuterthat can go 130km/h and travel 160km from a single charge. Thisis quite a step forward from previous electric vehicles.

i MiEV looks diminutive and slightly odd-shaped but not to the extentthat it stands out from other slim-shouldered hatchbacks. A distinguishingfeature is the socket on the rear right pillar, from which you can fullyre-charge the car using a normal household powerpoint in about sevenhours. On the other rear pillar is a socket for rapid re-charging, which isonly compatible with the Quick Charger System not yet available inAustralia;this gives an 80% charge in just 30 minutes.

Popping open the bonnet would appeal to any mechanically challengedmotorist. The tiny ‘engine bay’ holds the auxiliary battery plus reservoirsfor brake fluid and a special heating fluid and not much else, highlightingthat essentially i MiEV is maintenance-free.

This car is surprisingly roomy, and four adults can sit comfortably. Thesurprisingly minimalistic dash poses no navigational difficulties for thedriver. However, the interior lacks so much character, you may feel letdown for a car touted as being at the forefront of automotive progress.But turn the key and you are drawn to the real attraction of i MiEV. Agreen light on the dash states we are READY – just as well given the silentnature of the motor.

Driving i MiEV is no different to any automatic car, and while there isno gearbox as such (a reduction box dilutes the speed of the motor), thereare three settings on the gear lever:Drive, Eco and Brake. Drive is the fullpowermode, Eco is for economy and Brake sets off regenerative brakingthat absorbs kinetic energy. You can switch at any time, which can beused to prolong driving range, especially when the battery gauge fallsbelow halfway. If the charge gets too low, a ‘turtle’ will appear, indicatingyou only have 10km of charge left.

Do electric cars have a sustainable future in Australia?

First up, i MiEV is truly a zero liquid fuel car and emits (close to) zerodrive-time emissions (in comparison, a hybrid will generate about 1kg ofgreenhouse emissions over 10km). Yet an electric car will draw its powerpredominantly from an electricity grid which inAustralia (and more so inVictoria) generally comes from ‘dirty’ brown or black coal. Studies suggestcharging from coal is still probably cleaner than petrol but not cleanenough. We need to use renewable energy.

By signing up to 100% accredited green power (and so guaranteeing anequivalent amount is put into the grid), you can essentially recharge ani MiEV without additional greenhouse emissions. And it will cost about4c/km to charge i MiEV using 100% green power,which is about half thecost of petrol.

Simon Mikedis is RACV’s environmental programs officer

RoyalAuto and RACV is the source of the material and is published here with the kind permission of Simon Mikedis, Environmental Programs, Public Policy Department, RACV.

14 OCTOBER 2009

Article in The Age, 14 October 2009:

No backing for electric sports car


Aussie supercar returns

Australian made supercar the Bolwell Nagari is back on the road after almost 40 years.

A boutique car maker has hit out at the Federal Government's lack of support for small business after it was refused help to develop Australia's first all-electric production sports coupe.

Campbell Bolwell, one of three brothers whose company once ranked among the nation's top 10 car makers, said two bids for federal funding to help it build an environmentally friendly vehicle were refused, forcing the company to look overseas for help.

Seaford-based Bolwell, a company better known for making fibreglass truck bodies, yesterday launched the production version of its petrol-engined Nagari, a modern-day take on a 1970s-era supercar that faded from view after a government crackdown on powerful sports cars effectively shut down the industry overnight.

Back to the future: Bolwell's petrol-engined Nagari supercar.

Mr Bolwell said the company had sought funding from the CSIRO, and also sought access to the Federal Government's $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund.

Money from the innovation fund has helped Ford Australia develop a four-cylinder engine for the locally made Falcon family sedan, and a diesel engine for the Ford Territory soft-roader. It has also helped Holden cement its plans to build the Cruze small sedan in Australia.

''I think it's easier for them to give one of the majors a heap of money and say 'build a hybrid' than actually help the smaller, more innovative engineering side of things,'' Mr Bolwell said.

Toyota has unveiled its new concept electric vehicle FT-EV II. Click for more photosToyota has unveiled its new concept electric vehicle FT-EV II. Photo: AFP Photo * Toyota has unveiled its new concept electric vehicle FT-EV II. * Toyota's new electric car is a compact four-seater with a maximum speed of 100kph. * The Toyota FT-EV II. * The driving position in Toyota's FT-EV II electric car. * The steering wheel and dashboard in the Toyota FT-EV II. * Nissan's new concept vehicle, the * The * The interior of Nissan's * Test drive ... Nissan's

Instead, Bolwell is now in talks with a Korean company over supplying the components needed to build an electric-powered version of the lightweight two-seat Nagari.

The petrol-engined Nagari is the first car in almost 40 years to wear the Bolwell logo. The $198,000 mid-engined Nagari is quite different to the 1970s-era hairy-chested, V8-powered version of the coupe.

Five years in the making, the modern-day supercar uses an economical, Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 engine.

29 OCTOBER 2009

Article in The Age, 29 October 2009:

Electric cars can go the distance


AN ELECTRIC car that can plug into an ordinary household power outlet has smashed the world distance record for travelling on battery power alone.

The $160,000 Tesla Roadster, the only one of its kind in Australia and owned by Adelaide-based internet tycoon Simon Hackett, drove 501 kilometres from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to Marla in South Australia solely on battery power on Tuesday, smashing the previous world record of 388 kilometres.

The US-built car is competing in the Global Green Challenge, a 3000-kilometre run from Darwin to Adelaide that ends on Saturday.

Mr Hackett's zero-emission record comes with a slight sting in the tail. The car travelled at 55 km/h and was followed by a diesel generator mounted on the back of a truck that can give the Tesla's batteries a rapid three-hour recharge when needed.

Mr Hackett said he entered the Tesla in the challenge to prove that one day electric vehicles - with the benefit of roadside recharging stations - could drive large distances though Australia.This year's event, the 10th time the Global Green Challenge has been run, was won by a Japanese-engineered solar car entry which crossed the finish line late yesterday.

13 JANUARY 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Electric car gets ready to rumble


THE Japanese Government is drawing up legislation to make a new generation of electric cars speak, beep or even mimic the sound of galloping horses or running water.

The introduction of hybrid and electric cars, which make little noise, has raised concerns of an increase in accidents involving pedestrians, particularly the young and elderly.

A Ministry of Transport panel is working on guidelines for a minimum noise level for such vehicles and has invited ideas from the public for a standard warning noise - prompting suggestions for automated verbal warnings, the sound of an indicator ticking or even horses' hooves.

Nissan is among the companies to have set up project teams to explore the most appropriate sounds for their new vehicles. ''We are looking at all the possible options for enhancing the interaction with the car,'' Nissan spokeswoman Pauline Kee said, adding that the noise could be music, the sound of running water or wind rustling the leaves of a tree.

The ministry is due to complete its deliberations this month and decide on the noise that cars are required to make. And despite all the options, it is expected to select the noise of a car engine.


17 JANUARY 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Clooney leads the charge with new generation of electric cars


With a curiously squashed body, the Tango electrically powered car is as nippy as a motorbike and can reach a speed of 200km/h. Satisfied customers include the actor George Clooney and its inventor describes the bizarre vehicle as a "chick magnet".

The Tango is among the quirkier exhibits on Electric Avenue, a corner of the Detroit motor show devoted to electrically powered vehicles. Every manufacturer of any note, from General Motors to Toyota, Mitsubishi and Hyundai, has a plug-in car or, at the very least, a petrol-electric hybrid on display.

The future of motoring, according to political and environmental enthusiasts, is electric. But barely 1 per cent of industry sales last year were hybrid or electrically powered vehicles. PricewaterhouseCoopers' automotive institute expects to see a small rise to 4 per cent by 2015.

"What's holding them back?" asks Anthony Pratt, an analyst from PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Cost."

Typically buying an eco-friendly car involves a price premium and the recession has not helped. Toyota this week unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of the Prius called the FT-CH concept.

Its Japanese rival, Nissan, displayed a pure electric plug-in car called the Leaf, which has a socket in its bonnet and needs to be recharged every 160 kilometres. Mitsubishi has a similar model, the MiEV prototype (short for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle). But until somebody builds a network of electric charging stations, they are awkward for longer trips.

The most keenly awaited "green" launch will be GM's ChevroletVolt, a hybrid that can go 64 kilometres on a single electric charge but also harness power from its engine to generate more electricity on the go. This means it can cover hundreds of kilometres on one tank of petrol. But GM vice-chairman for product development Bob Lutz admits it will not be much of a moneyspinner.

"If we did it purely for profitability, we wouldn't be doing it," said Lutz, who predicts that even in a decade's time at least 90 per cent of cars sold will still be powered by internal combustion.

26 APRIL 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Chinese drivers veer off track on hybrid-car test run

Motor show dreaming: Chinese motorists may aspire to Lamborghinis but the government hopes they will find the Saic E1 electric car (above) more practical. Photo: Getty Images

At Beijing's auto show, motorists are opting for cheaper petrol engines.

HUANG Jihai considered buying his 28-year-old daughter the world's first plug-in hybrid as a wedding gift in Beijing before choosing to save $US2500 ($2700) with a petrol-powered car instead.

''Some of the hybrids and electric cars look pretty cool, but they are too expensive,'' said Mr Huang. ''I'd rather spend less money on a reliable petrol car.''

Car makers including GM and Nissan are displaying a record 95 alternative energy-powered models at this year's Beijing Auto Show, which opened at the weekend.

While Beijing has touted less-polluting cars as a way to improve air quality and cut reliance on imported oil, it has delayed the introduction of subsidies that might put the models within reach for buyers such as Mr Huang.

A lack of affordability may limit sales of such vehicles by GM, Nissan and Toyota, which have all announced plans to introduce hybrids and electric cars in China by 2011.The sluggish demand is also curbing investment in less-polluting car technology, prompting domestic car makers to seek foreign partners to help fund development.

''It's unrealistic to expect consumers to jump into the technology,'' said Bill Russo, a Beijing-based adviser at consulting firm Booz & Co.

''You don't have to be too advanced in math to realise that the petrol-powered cars are much cheaper and probably deliver more performance and better range.''

BYD Co, a Shenzhen car maker 10 per cent owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, delivered 48 of its F3DM plug-in hybrids in 2009 at $US21,940 each. The company sold 290,963 of its petrol-powered F3, which starts at $US8760 and was China's best-selling model.

Toyota sold 271 of its $US38,000 Prius cars, the world's top-selling hybrid, in China last year. Overall passenger-car sales in the nation totalled 10.3 million.

China, the world's second-largest energy user, bought a record 203.8 million metric tonnes of crude oil last year as 37,383 new vehicles took to the roads every 24 hours.To fight pollution and reduce oil dependence, the nation aims to have more than 60,000 alternative-energy vehicles on the roads of 10 cities by 2012. Sales of such cars may account for 15 per cent of the market by 2020, according to the Ministry of Industry and Technology.

The government had planned to announce subsidies for alternative-energy vehicles in January. It is still working on the details after seeking advice from car makers.

Separate subsidies for smaller, conventional cars introduced last year helped vehicle sales surge 46 per cent last year to 13.6 million, with China surpassing the US to become the world's largest auto market. In Japan, rebates for buyers of fuel-efficient cars helped make Toyota's Prius the nation's best-selling vehicle last year.

The Beijing Auto Show is China's biggest, with car makers from around the world exhibiting 990 models, 89 of them for the first time.

Most of China's biggest domestic car makers are planning to mass-market hybrids and electric cars. About 100 electric models have been approved for production.

SAIC Motor Corp, the nation's largest car maker, will debut its E1 electric concept car at the show.

from BLOOMBERG news service

27 APRIL 2010

Article in The Age newspaper:

Electric servos lead charge for carbon-free motoring


FOR all the feel-good rhetoric about electric cars, the inconvenient truth is drivers remain sceptical about battery technology that can only carry them 160 kilometres at a time.

A venture to roll out a network of battery-switching stations, launched as a trial in Tokyo yesterday and set for Australia from next year, may allay those doubts.

The pilot program between Silicon Valley start-up Better Place and Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo's largest taxi company, is the first test of the technology before it is launched in Israel and Denmark next year. Better Place will begin building infrastructure in Canberra later next year and the rest of Australia in 2012.

The company envisages a global network of thousands of charging points for short trips, as well as battery-switching stations. These are needed to tackle the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, which have a limited range and take several hours to recharge.

Better Place founder Shai Agassi said yesterday's launch was "proof you can build a network of [electric] cars that can go and go and go. That would not have been possible if you had to drive for one hour then charge the battery for six hours."

For the Tokyo program, four electric taxis serving the Roppongi Hills neighbourhood will rely on robots at a $US500,000 ($A540,000) switching station to swap dead batteries for fresh ones in less than half the time it takes to fill a tank with petrol.

Under the Better Place system, drivers will buy the cars but get batteries from Better Place and pay for a monthly electricity plan that depends on the number of kilometres they cover.

The company's Australian chief, Evan Thornley, a former internet entrepreneur then Victorian Labor MP, said Australia's urban environment made it an ideal place for electric cars.

"We have a lot of large cars that do long distances around the outer suburbs of our cities," Mr Thornley said. "There are a lot of people out there that have … $6000-a-year petrol bills. I can replace that with $1000 worth of renewable electricity.''

Better Place Australia is working with Macquarie Group to raise $1 billion to cover working capital and fund the network.

Renault is working with the company to make cars with easy to swap batteries.

5 MAY 2010

Above article from Preston Leader 5 May 2010

MAY 2010

Permission was requested to reproduce this article from RoyalAuto, and this has been granted. Bruce Newton and RoyalAuto are credited as the source of the material. With thanks to all for this permission.

12 JUNE 2010

Article in The Age 12 June 2010:

13 JUNE 2010

Article in the Sunday Age:

Artificial noise for silent car


WITH advocates for pedestrians and the blind warning that hybrid and electric cars could catch strollers unaware, the designers of the Nissan Leaf have added sound effects to the otherwise nearly silent vehicle.

After exploring a hundred sounds that ranged from chimes to motor-like to futuristic, the company settled on a soft whine that fluctuates in intensity with the car's speed. When backing up, the car makes a clanging sound.

Nissan says it worked with advocates for the blind, a Hollywood sound design company and acoustic psychologists in creating its system of audible alerts.

''While silence is golden, it does present practical challenges,'' a Nissan statement said. The Leaf is scheduled to go on sale in the US in December.

Nissan added the artificial noise as lawmakers and regulators study whether car manufacturers should be required to install warning sounds in their vehicles to alert pedestrians.

With the use of electric cars expected to rise with the introduction of vehicles like the Leaf, safety advocates have warned of the dangers to pedestrians.

According to a study by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year, hybrid vehicles are twice as likely as conventional cars to be involved in a pedestrian crash in some low-speed situations.


16 JUNE 2010

Australian “green” company linked to Israel’s occupation in Palestine

Published on 16 June 2010 My following article (Antony Loewenstein) appears today on ABC Unleashed/The Drum:

My investigation has found a leading Australian electric car company is linked to an Israeli firm that operates in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

Better Place, advertised as “dedicated to zero emissions driving”, is part of a global venture capital firm based in California that has raised over $400 million to build charging stations for electric cars across the globe. Here is the company’s promo from 2009.

Better Place Australia – led by Evan Thornley, former Labor politician and co-founder of internet search engine Looksmart – is planning a national rollout of its services across Australia by late 2012.

Thornley told BusinessDaily in early 2010 that, “there’s hardly a government, car maker or capital market in the northern hemisphere who isn’t very deeply engaged in the opportunity with electric vehicles”.

But the green credentials of the company are threatened by revelations of the Israeli figures behind the organisation and its behaviour in occupied Palestinian territory.

Better Place Israel (BPI) is led by former general Moshe Kaplinsky, deputy chief of staff of Israel’s army during the 2006 Lebanon invasion and commander of the IDF in the West Bank during the second Intifada. Both military adventures led to serious allegations of human rights abuses including the dropping of cluster bombs on civilian areas across southern Lebanon.

Israel has never been held to account over the allegations.

The Electronic Intifada (EI) website first alerted readers in early May to the issues now circling around BPI and discovered the presence of charging stations along Israel’s controversial Route 443, some of which illegally deviates directly into Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

Today, even with an Israeli High Court ruling that demands equal access to the road for both Palestinians and Israelis, the road remains partly inaccessible to indigenous Palestinians in the area.

An EI reporter was told by BPI that the company was willing to install charging stations “anywhere…you want to live”, including the West Bank.

Some of Better Place’s supporters have an Australian connection.

I contacted Macquarie Capital, which has reportedly pledged to fund the construction of plug-in stations, and asked if they knew about BPI’s behaviour in the Middle East. A spokeswoman refused to discuss the role of Better Place Australia or answer any questions about its Israeli connection but said Macquarie is only a financial advisor to the company and has no relationship with the Israeli arm.

“We only have a local management relationship and cannot discuss negotiations or advice given to Better Place”, she said.

Local Better Place management is directly connected to BPI.

A key backer is Wolfensohn and Co, the investment firm run by former World Bank President, Middle East Quartet envoy and Australian-born, Jewish, American citizen James Wolfensohn.

The firm didn’t respond to my request for comment.

When I contacted Better Place Australia with a list of questions related to the company’s actions in the occupied territories I was referred to headquarters in Palo Alto and the Vice President of Communications, Joe Paluska. He avoided answering any questions about BPI’s attempts to integrate Israel’s miliary and political establishment towards a greenwashing agenda and told me that, “Better Place is a privately-held global company…with operations around the world including in Israel, Denmark, Australia, US, Canada, Japan, China, France, Germany and The Netherlands.”

When pushed on particular details about BPI’s presence in the West Bank, Paluska responded: “Each operating unit is broadly responsible for local deployment and local relations and reports to our global team here in Palo Alto.”

Paluska refused to answer the following questions:

- Does Better Place Australia do any work in the occupied territories and what is the company’s views about it?
- There are serious charges allegations against BPI’s chief executive Moshe Kaplinsky’s role in Israel’s Lebanon invasion in 2006 and invasion of the West Bank during the second Intifada….What is the company’s response and is it appropriate for a man such as Kaplinsky to be heading a group that aims to promote a greener future for the world?
- Evidence exists that finds Better Place charging stations in settlements on the West Bank and along Highway 443, a road that includes roughly 30 km that runs through the West Bank. What is the company’s response to these allegations?
- Does Better Place in Australia have a relationship with the Rudd government and are they aware of the allegations against the company’s activities in the West Bank?
- After the recent Rudd government decision to expel a Mossad agent from Australia, how does Better Place see Australia’s relationship with Israel?

Better Place Australia is not directly involved in the company’s Israeli operations but the firm is just the latest attempt to “normalise” Israeli behaviour. Wired magazine published a feature in 2008 about the organisation that notably avoided any serious examination of the company’s connection to the Israeli military establishment – President Shimon Peres is a big fan of BPI’s attempt to move away from the Western reliance on oil and repressive Arab states – and simply praised founder Shai Agassi and his “vision” for the future.

In May a number of leading scholars, including Noam Chomsky, protested the Boston Museum of Science co-sponsoring and hosting “Israeli Innovation Weekend” (IIW) which featured the Better Place initiative.

The statement read: “IIW is far from an innocent educational endeavour. It is part of a propaganda campaign by the State of Israel to present itself as a beacon of progress in a desert of backwardness and deflect attention from its atrocious human rights record and fundamentally discriminatory policies”.

Leading Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf told me that BPI is very high profile in Israel, has been adopted by many politicians and is “always promoted as an example of Israel’s contribution to the world”.

Sheizaf said that the BPI project in the West Bank may not be “criminal…but what it teaches us is that large portions of Israel’s economy – more than we can imagine, and even more than the Palestinian boycott or other publicised acts show – is tied to the occupation and to colonisation.

“There is something hopelessly naive – if not pure false – about an attempt to separate ‘good’ Israel from ‘occupying’ Israel. Not every Israeli is as bad as the extreme settlers of Hebron, but the occupation is the Israeli national project, so before we celebrate inventions such as this green car, we should also think who benefits from it, and on whose expense.”

15 JULY 2010

The following article is from Antony Loewenstein's web pages:

Israel’s Better Place continues its human rights-free push into Australia

Published on 15 July 2010

In June I wrote about the Israeli electric car company Better Place and serious questions over its human rights record in Palestine and the Middle East.

Today’s Australian features the following story about the company and proves how human rights so rarely enters the corporate media’s understanding of “progress”:

The California-based Better Place electric car company has picked Australia to test the technology before rolling out the cars in the US.

The firm will have charge points and battery-swapping stations in Israel by the end of this year, with Denmark and Australia by the end of next year.

“Australia is a proof of concept for North America,” Better Place Australia chief executive Evan Thornley said yesterday.

“Australia is continental size and it has a federal structure, so part of our role is to prove the network can scale.”

Mr Thornley, founder of the Nasdaq-listed search engine company LookSmart and a former Victorian MP, said the Australian launch would start with Canberra and southern NSW by the end of next year, and then expand nationally. The US states of Hawaii and California would follow soon afterwards.

The Better Place concept is similar to subsidised handset plans in mobile phones. The company covers the cost of the battery — the most expensive component in an electric car — and the driver pays a monthly subscription to recharge or replace the batteries. Heavy-use motorists would probably sign up for unlimited use.

Charging the batteries can take more than an hour, but Better Place would install a charger at the customer’s home and workplace to minimise inconvenience. For trips of more than 160km, motorists would use a battery-swapping station to replace the battery in less than a minute.

Mr Thornley said the distances in Australia were not a problem. “We will electrify the Hume Highway, but the vast majority of driving in this country is in the outer suburbs of the major cities. This is liberating working families from the tyranny of petrol prices.”

By the time the national network was complete in 2013, Better Place should offer full coverage for 80 per cent of Australian motorists, Mr Thornley said. Australians paid $25 billion a year for petrol, and oil prices would rise in the coming decade while electric car battery prices would drop.

On the environment, the car would emit zero emissions because Better Place was committed to getting all its Australian electricity from renewable sources.

Mr Thornley predicted fleet owners would be the first to adopt electric cars because they would see the cost advantage. This would mean a strong second-hand market in coming years.

Better Place Australia has an agreement with Macquarie Bank to raise $1bn over five years and has secured $25 million in funding from AGL, Lend Lease and RACV.

16 JULY 2010

The following item is from Clover Moore's weekly enews bulletin. Clover is Member of NSW Parliament for the state seat of Bligh and Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney:


The City will trial the first production electric vehicle to bereleased in Australia from September - the 40 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Withclose to 85 per cent of Australian urban commuters travelling lessthan 100 kilometres per day it is more important than ever to explorelow-carbon transport alternatives, including electric vehicles.

Each day, more than 700,000 cars travel through the City's localgovernment area - significantly contributing to smog, greenhouse gaspollution, congestion and noise. Electric vehicles, together withpublic transport, walking and cycling, will reduce these environmentalimpacts, as they produce no exhaust emissions when they use low orzero carbon emission electricity to reduce greenhouse pollution ratherthan simply displace it.

When I attended the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen lastDecember, I committed to working with other C40 cities to help expandthe uptake of electric vehicles. The City will now join other greenleaders to trial the i-Miev in Australian conditions.

The City will evaluate the i-MiEV for CBD operations and collect datato measure and compare energy consumption and emission benefitsagainst the petrol, diesel and hybrid powered vehicles.

The i-MiEV uses a large-capacity lithium-ion battery system and acompact, high output electric motor in place of a petrol engine. Withno exhaust emissions, it has a range of up to 160 kms, a top speed of130 kms per hour, and recharges in less than eight hours using astandard 15 amp power point.

This trial follows the opening in May of Australia's first on-streetelectric vehicle charging station in Glebe for use by car sharecompany GoGet, which uses a retrofitted Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle.

* Mitsubishi
* GoGet Carshare Electric

Electric Vehicles Part 2

Electric Vehicles Part 3

Electric Vehicles Part 4

DVD: "Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)

Available in Australia


Australian Electric Vehicle Association

Blade Electric Vehicles

Ceres Community Environment Park - Electric Vehicle Conversions Project

Contact me at: red-jos_at_red-jos_net



Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

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Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

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This page last updated 11 FEBRUARY 2013