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Ford displays Deakin's T-squared green car -

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Ford displays Deakin's T-squared green car

The Ford Motor Company ran a design competition for a revolutionary new car. The entry from
engineering students from Deakin University was one of just two entries showcased. David Fisher
reports.

Transcript

Robyn Williams: We mentioned the Ford Model-T centenary a few weeks ago and the international
competition Deakin University was going in for. Here's news from David Fisher.

David Fisher: Students at Deakin University are celebrating a win after their car of the future was
showcased by the Ford motor company in Detroit. It's 100 years since Ford released their Model-T
and now the company is looking at developing something truly revolutionary with their vehicles.
Engineering students worldwide submitted their designs, and Deakin's car, the T-Squared, was one of
just two put on display. Project leader from Deakin University Bernard Rolfe describes the rules of
the competition.

Bernard Rolfe: The global challenge had several criteria and one of those was that the base vehicle
had to be retailed for below $US7,000, so it had to be cheap. It had to be a revolutionary vehicle
so that it would capture the non-traditional consumer, and it also had to be a step-change in terms
of the vehicle design or the vehicle manufacturing.

David Fisher: What really caught my attention was the use of compressed air. I haven't got a clue
what you're doing there. What's the story with compressed air?

Bernard Rolfe: We actually looked around at what different options we could get for powering this
vehicle, and we looked at electric engines and we also found that there's a supplier of compressed
air engines in Melbourne, Angelo Di Pietro, and Angelo's engine actually uses the pressure of the
compressed air to push round a rotor to then drive your engine. He's done a number of efficiencies
within that design to actually get a very efficient engine. I think it's about 85% efficient.

With the design that we've come up with, you would refill up your compressed air fuel tank, and
you'd need an industrial compressor to do that within, say, five minutes if you went into a gas
station. At home you could probably fill up your compressed air tank using a personal scuba diving
compressor in around about four to six hours. So you could come home, plug it in, and the next day
it would be fully recharged.

David Fisher: And that drives each of the wheels in turn, does it?

Bernard Rolfe: What we came up with was a differential speed steering system. So by driving each
wheel at different speeds you can actually get your vehicle to turn.

David Fisher: And that's another design innovation you've got.

Bernard Rolfe: Yes. We went for that type of option because we can then get rid of the steering
mechanism...we can simplify the suspension, basically, by getting rid of the steering rack and the
steering rod, and we can then minimise the amount of parts we're using and we can also then drive
by wire.

David Fisher: What does that mean, 'drive by wire'?

Bernard Rolfe: The drive by wire is where you actually are controlling your car not by a mechanical
connection between your hands and the wheels but by some sort of electronic connection. So that
type of connection has been in the aircraft industry since the early 80s. Mercedes and some of the
high-end vehicles have got prototypes which have drive by wire. They're yet to come into the
marketplace.

David Fisher: It's got just three wheels.

Bernard Rolfe: Yes, three wheels. With our design we were looking at getting integrated simplicity,
so the idea was to simplify the car as much as possible, integrate as many systems as we could into
single systems where possible.

David Fisher: It strikes me as being unstable.

Bernard Rolfe: When we looked at stability, a lot of the issues would be in terms of rolling the
car, and where we put the weight is very important. So we put the weight very much towards the
front...

David Fisher: And very low, I imagine.

Bernard Rolfe: And quite low, and by putting the centre of mass at a particular point you can
actually get it so that the car will slide before it actually will tip.

David Fisher: Well, that's a relief! And you've got lightweight materials as well, and I think
Deakin is a world leader in developing these.

Bernard Rolfe: We've got a world-class research centre in terms of materials and fibre innovation,
and our expertise has been in lightweight body structures, particularly in light metals and also
advanced high-strength steels. By using our research into those new materials we've been able to
come up with new innovative body structures to really lighten up the vehicle.

David Fisher: What's the range of the vehicle?

Bernard Rolfe: The range of the vehicle is 80 kilometres using just the pure compressed air. Part
of the competition was about going 200 kilometres. So using a compressed natural gas burner, by
heating the air we can actually put more energy into the air and thereby getting more energy out of
our motor. We can actually then go up to 200 kilometres range, but then you are creating emissions
directly from your vehicle by burning compressed natural gas.

David Fisher: I hope you've patented all of your ideas.

Bernard Rolfe: Some of the ideas have already been patented through previous things that we've done
through research, but we're now in negotiation with Ford about patent...

David Fisher: Have they said they'll make it?

Bernard Rolfe: At the moment, due to the financial times that are surrounding all of us, they're a
bit strapped for cash at the moment, but they're very keen for a prototype to be built. So at the
moment we're looking for ways that we can get funding so that we can actually build a true
prototype to check out the manufacturing and check out a lot more things about drivability et
cetera with the car.

David Fisher: What's your hope, what's your dream? When might we see it?

Bernard Rolfe: Assuming we could get some funding to build the prototype, I think we could see a
prototype in one to two years.

David Fisher: All the best, congratulations, that's great news.

Bernard Rolfe: Thank you very much.

Robyn Williams: Bernard Rolfe at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, and our congratulations to
them.