UltraCommuter is a hybrid electric concept car first designed by the University of Queensland Sustainable Energy Group and unveiled in 2005. In 2007 the project was transferred to the Waikato University School of Engineering and further developed in conjunction with HybridAuto Pty.
Design and development
The UltaCommuter project commenced in 2000 out of the University of Queenland's award winning solar car project, the SunShark. Dr Geoff Walker said the aim was to make a car that people could register and drive from the knowledge gained making the SunShark. The car body toured Queensland in 2005 and 2006 as part of RACQ's roadshow on the history of Queensland motoring called Bulldust to Bitumen and Beyond. In 2007 Matthew Greaves, Ben Guymer, and Bernie Walsh who started the UltraCommuter project formed HybridAuto and passed development on to a Waikato University School of Engineering team lead by Dr Mike Duke.
The UltraCommuter was described as a long range two seater electric vehicle. It ran on either a single 150 kg lithium battery pack which gave it a range of about 200 km. With two battery packs installed the range is doubled to 400 km. The car could attain speeds of between 120kmh and 170kmh. The cars aluminium honeycomb chassis was about one third the weight of a similar sized production car, and two engines are situated in the rear wheels.
HybridAuto (now Ultramotive Technologies) and Page MacRae, a Mount Maunganui engineering firm, funded the initial development cost of about NZ$150,000, with the intention of making it road legal as a research tool for investigating introducing battery electric cars into New Zealand. Ultramotive provided the electric motors. In 2007 Dr Duke of Waikato University stated that it would take at least 18 months and cost at least $10 million to market and produce between 100 and 2000 electric cars a year.
Development work continued at Waikato University with another solar powered car being certified as roadworthy in 2011. This second car was driven from Auckland to Bluff between 24 November and 6 December 2011. They were joined on the journey by Bochum University's solar round the world car.
Discussions were held in 2008 between the Waikato University electric vehicle project and British car makers with the view to establishing a Britain, Australia and New Zealand consortium that may manufacture electric vehicles in New Zealand but these did not proceed.
World Solar Challenge
The UltraCommuter was raced in the Greenfleet Technology Class of the Darwin to Adelaide 2007 World Solar Challenge by a Hybrid Auto and Waikato University Team. The Greenfleet Class of cars in the Challenge aimed to promote more consumer oriented low emission vehicles.
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- Electric Cars Wait in the Wings, Manawatu Standard, 17 September 2008
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- Thesis: Design of Lightweight Electric Vehicles, Travis de Fluiter, University of Waikato, Hamilton New Zealand, March 2008