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The Mercury Cars Guide : February 21st 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009 Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au CARSguide —13 Plug in to electric fuel saver Ifyouhaveafew cents to spare,whynotgofora drive in the car foraday. Neil Dowling gets electric of the wind are shattered by one comment from the car’s driver. T ‘‘If we built this without the proper parts or the knowhow in six months,whyis it taking car manufacturers so long?’’ says Professor Thomas Braunl of the University of WA’s engineering faculty. It’s difficult to argue. Some university students and their lecturers purchased and transformed a 2008 Hyundai Getz from a petrol-fuelled hatchback to one running solely on plug-in power. It cost $15,000 in materials — most had to be purpose- built because the components aren’t available off the shelf— and in the real world, perhaps the same again in labour. This is in addition to the purchase of the car. The bonus is that it costs 1.4 cents a kilometre to run — about 10 per cent of its petrol- fuelled equivalent. HE almost imper- ceptible hum of the electric motor and the cooling whoosh ‘‘If you recharge at night, using off-peak power, it’s less than 1c a kilometre,’’ Profes- sor Braunl says. ‘‘It will charge in four to six hours and that’s enough for 100km. ‘‘As a household’s second car, these are perfect. They produce no emissions, use no fossil fuels (dependant on the electricity source), are simple, quiet and reliable.’’ The UWA uses roof- mounted solar cells to create electricity to run the car, making the car operate with- out any greenhouse gas con- tributions. The conversion required re- moving the conventional 70kW petrol engine and its ancilliaries — exhaust, fuel tank, cooling system and clutch — while retaining the five-speed manual gearbox. Under the bonnet went a 28kW electric motor and its controller, with a 144-volt lithium-ion battery pack set in a safety cage within the boot. Despite the addition of the large battery pack and the electric motor, the Getz weighs the same as its petrol donor. But the conversion requires some different thinking. There is very little heat from the motor so unlike a petrol engine — where the heater and demister use the heat from the coolant — the elec- tric car must have an ancilli- ary heater. Driving the car is as easy as switching on and pressing the accelerator. Professor Braunl suggests keeping the transmission in third gear. SUPER EFFICIENT: The Hyundai Getz that has been converted by the University of WA. It will accelerate as briskly as the petrol car and without needing to change gears, reach 110km/h. Basically, because of the inherent low-rev torque of an electric motor — it produces maximum torque at 1rpm — the driving characteristics are radically different to an inter- nal combustion-engined ve- hicle. A buzzer fitted to the UWA car warns of excessive accel- erator pressure in an attempt to improve economy by ex- tending the range. A simple digital readout on the centre console acts as the fuel gauge. ‘‘If the readout gets to about 20 per cent (of charge remain- ing) then you should start looking for a place to re- charge,’’ Professor Braunl says. While stationary, the en- ergy consumption of the car is 0.8 amps. Use the steering and brakes and that rises to 3 amps. Turn the lights on and it becomes 4 amps and press the accelerator lightly and the drain is 75 amps. Maximum acceleration will draw 150 amps. The DC system isn’t as sophisticated as the AC units which, amongst other bene- fits, has the ability to accept regenerative braking energy. But the DC is simpler and significantly cheaper. ‘‘Part of our research is to test the benefits of DC over AC. It may be that DC is more applicable to certain driving conditions than AC, for exam- ple,’’ he says. The Getz was purchased new last year by the UWA without any financial assis- tance — despite appeals — from the car company. Spon- sorship has come only from theWAGovernment’s Depart- ment for Planning and infra- structure. That hasn’t deterred Profes- sor Braunl. ‘‘We have purchased a Lo- tus which will be converted with a high-performance AC electric system,’’ he says. ‘‘The cost is much higher than a DC. The Getz 144-volt motor was about $3500 but the high-performance AC motor with 350-volts is about $30,000 — it’s a very big gap. ‘‘The Getz will be sold at the end of next year. I’ve already had five serious bids and even requests for us to build cars. ‘‘There’s a lot of interest.’’
February 14th 2009
February 28th 2009