If you happened to watch the ABC’s Australian Story last night, you would’ve gotten to know engineer and founder of Rewiring Australia, Doctor Saul Griffith. And you might have spotted one of the coolest inventions I’ve seen in a while — a homemade solar-powered scooter, with great big photovoltaics on the side.
If you haven’t seen the episode yet, here’s a teaser for it. In Australian Story form, it focuses on Griffith’s past as a renewable energy advocate on an international level and as someone trying to put forward engineering-based solutions to the world’s energy problems.
— AustralianStory (@AustralianStory) February 23, 2023
But perhaps the coolest thing about the episode (and we’re talking about visually cool here, not ‘saving us from the impending doom of climate change’ cool) was Griffith’s solar-powered scooter.
Now, solar-powered scooters aren’t a new concept (though the legality in Australia for electric scooters is still quite dicey), and similar solar-powered bikes are available in Australia, but this DIY job Griffith has done is really cool.
“This is a prototype for an all-solar, all-electric scooter,” Griffith told Australian Story.
“It gets about 20 to 30 kilometres per day on its own charge from the solar on the side.
“It’s a shitless horse cause, you know, it has the functionality of a horse — climbs up hills, gets you all around the place — but it doesn’t take a poo.”
The scooter itself is… Well, look, it looks like a big plank of wood with two solar panels plastered on the sides. But that range expectation is quite admirable, and it does have a lot of charm to it.
Because I’m an obsessive nerd that loves stuff like this, I’ve reached out to Griffith to ask about the plug, the building process, the lithium battery and how long it takes to charge.
Solar-powered vehicles are a tremendously cool idea, one that we’ve explored in depth before when we interviewed the team leader of UNSW’s solar-powered Sunswift 7 project car, but the automotive niche has come on hard times.
Just this week, it was announced that Sono Motors, the creators of one of the more famous solar-powered electric vehicles, were killing the project. It’s now transitioning the company to make solar-powered attachments for commercial vehicles.
Similarly, the company behind the Lightyear Zero, a solar-powered electric performance car, filed for bankruptcy last month.
I’d love to believe cars like the Lightyear Zero and the Sono Sion could be where we end up with electric vehicles, and stuff like the solar-powered scooter Griffith has built has me optimistic about the future.
But obviously it’s not as easy as plastering solar panels on the sides of a Tesla — and unfortunately, it looks like the companies pioneering the tech may be dead in the water.
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