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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

SCU ‘roads’ scholar is an electric Kombi

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Southern Cross University’s electric vehicle – a long-range converted Volkswagen Kombi. Photo supplied.

It’s not the first time a V-Dub has been battery-powered, but it’s still pretty cool. Southern Cross University has unveiled an extraordinary vehicle – a long-range converted Volkswagen Kombi.

More than an uber-cool, 1970s retro vehicle conversion, the 18-month project is a retro-fitted electric vehicle with a driving range that suits regional Australia, which is also a tangible learning resource about renewable energy that is now available for schools around the country.

The project, which was led by a Southern Cross University graduate and included hands-on electrical and mechanical engineering experience for current students, also complements another existing Southern Cross renewable energy project – the solar-powered Sunflower that delivers remote power.

Now part of a narrative about the University

Southern Cross Vice Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin said the electric Kombi is now part of a narrative about a University determined to find solutions to today’s challenges. ‘One of our goals was to create a Kombi with a range that was practical for regional Australia and, at 200km or even more per charge, we believe we have achieved that.’

SCU says that while contemporary electric vehicles, such as Tesla, are emerging with long-range capacity, most converted vehicles – especially those with the aerodynamics of a Kombi – have been limited to the 80km-160km range.

Andy Naughton, of electric classic car conversion business EV Machina, is the Southern Cross University Environmental Science graduate who was commissioned to undertake the conversion, using 10 x 5.3kWh batteries to help deliver 53kWh of power to an 88kWh electric motor.

An elaborate battery management system

The batteries are split into two encased packs, one between the front seats and the other in the rear engine bay, with both being charged simultaneously. An elaborate battery management system controls the delivery and distribution of power.

‘This particular combination of the range, the power, the idiosyncrasies of a Kombi – all add up to make it one-of-a kind electric vehicle conversion. And we had to learn along the way – there was no workshop manual for this one,’ said Mr Naughton, who won a 2018 Clean Energy Hackathon competition through the University’s Enterprise Lab.

The vehicle’s EV conversion features: a Motor: 88kW AC SRIPM electric motor with custom-built aluminium transmission adapter plate attached to original transmission; batteries: 53kWh water-cooled lithium battery pack (10 x 5.3kWh batteries); braking: Electric pump-boosted disc brakes with additional motor braking for regenerative braking increasing efficiency; power steering: Speed-variable custom electric power steering system; gears: 4-speed gearbox; Dashboard connectivity: Web-connected display with android operating system and OBD connection to motor and battery information – reverse camera; 110km/h highway cruising speed; optimum highway range: 200 – 200 kilometres, and; optimum urban traffic range: 250+ kilometres.

‘The romance and nostalgia attached to Kombis generally, but particularly in the Northern Rivers, only adds to the story of this vehicle,’ said Mr Carlin.

Find out more at: www.scu.edu.au/kombi.

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