Queensland University Students Develop UltraCommuter Car

April 18, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

Students at the University of Queensland, Australia unveiled a new solar-electric concept car, the UltraCommuter, which will use 83% less fuel and emit 87% less greenhouse gases than a Holden Commodore. Students from the University's Sustainable Energy Research Laboratory are building a working model of the UltraCommuter, which they hope to have on the road within a year. The UltaCommuter project was conceived in 2000 out of the University's SunShark solar car project.

The car is driven by two electric motors, one in each rear wheel, which are powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The car has a driving range of 500 km with the addition of a gas tank and a top speed of 150 kmh. The car weighs about 600 kg due to an aluminium and carbon-fibre body, which was designed for its low-drag aerodynamics, including wheel covers to cut down wheel drag.

To fill the car with fuel, it can be parked in the sun to recharge the battery pack using the 2.5 m² of transparent solar cells on the bonnet and back windscreen. A summer day would "top-up" the battery pack by about 50 km. The car can also be plugged into a home powerpoint and recharged overnight.

UltraCommuter coordinator Geoff Walker stated, "It’s not too radical. It’s still a two-seater car that people can sit in and commute in and get quite dramatic improvements in economy. We’re aiming for under 2 L per 100 km, which is about a five- or six-fold reduction on your average car."

The UltraCommuter car body will tour Queensland for the next 18 months as part of a touring roadshow on the history of Queensland motoring: Bulldust to Bitumen and Beyond.