Story & photo Eve Jeffery
Howard Hughes says he was mildly sceptical of climate change, but after research into the subject it prompted him into doing something about it.
And so the Road-e was born.
Based in Ballina, Hughes Engineering’s expansion from aeroplanes to electric vehicles was a desire to contribute to climate-change solutions.
The result is what he hopes will be Australia’s first production, all-Australian designed, three-seat, electric motor vehicle – but wait!
Here’s the kicker: these days anything that can run on electricity can run on solar power and this is just where Howard sees the vehicle going.
‘Anything that saves energy and saves money and saves carbon is the industry of the future, that’s how I see it,’ he says.
‘An electric car is quite useless if you have to plug it in to coal-fired power stations.
‘We plan that it will live at home under a solar-panelled carport or feed off your current solar setup. You come home at night, plug the car in and it charges up by morning and away you go the next day.’
Still in the pre-production stage, he says the Road-e will get you about 200 kilometres per sunbeam and will reach a top speed of around 100 kilometres per hour.
‘If you do this, it’s zero emission. This is a bit about feeling but, compared to saving the world, is not a drop in the ocean, but it is doing something. But if we can say, “Hey – if a little company like us in Ballina can do this, why can’t Toyota and Ford?”
‘Holden is coming up with an electric car – the Volt – but it doesn’t go very far.
‘It’s big, it’s heavy it’s just an ordinary car except it’s electric, whereas this is totally different.’
Howard says that in the not-too-distant future he hopes that Hughes Engineering will sell the vehicle as either a complete unit or a kit.
‘The Road-e will travel 15 to 18km per kilowatt hour; this equates to about 100 miles per gallon in the old language.
‘The two most important things about his car is that it’s light and it has an aerodynamic tadpole shape. It’s like a plane.
‘It’s a smooth shell that helps eliminate noise and drag.
‘This car will pass through the air with absolutely minimal or no drag at all and the stability of this will come from the fact that any air wash will just wash over it.’
All that is needed to complete the vehicle is solar technology.
‘We are looking to partner with a solar-panel company that can provide the totally green, zero-emissions solar charging part of the jigsaw puzzle,’ says Howard.
The Road-e isn’t far off and Howard sees a very bright near future for the car before he delves into his bag of interesting planet-saving ideas.
For more information abut the Road-e, visit the Hughes Engineering website: www.road-e.com.au.