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UC helping high country station to convert farm vehicles

UC helping high country station to convert farm vehicles to electric

March 9, 2014

The University of Canterbury (UC) is collaborating with a South Island high country station on an inspirational engineering project involving the conversion of one of its farm vehicles from diesel to electric-powered.

Through UC’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the station is funding all the components and external engineering costs, as well as providing a masters’ scholarship to electrical and electronic engineering student Pierce Hennessey to assist develop his interests in this field.

Production of the high country electric vehicle involves removing the engine, making mechanical modifications for mounting the electric system components, installing the electrical systems and carrying out commission testing.

``Other aspects of the project include design and fine-tuning so that the electric vehicle can comply with the relevant vehicle standards, as well as the demanding requirements of a high country work vehicle,’’ UC senior lecturer and project leader Dr Paul Gaynor says.

``This includes having the ability to handle rough terrain and being able to ford rivers. The station is seeking to establish its own small-scale hydro generation capacity in order to underpin its sustainability, as well as enabling electric vehicles and hopefully its successors to become hydro-powered in the course of time.

``While the initial aims of the project are performance based, including elements of environmental impact, the long-term perspective adopted by the station may also enable electric vehicles to test conventional wisdom as to the challenging economics of electric vehicles, particularly in the context of their practical operation in the high country.

``There are a few examples of other four wheel drive conversions from around the world, but they rarely aim to match or exceed the work-performance of the existing internal combustion-powered vehicle to be converted.

``Most of the global electric vehicle developments are focused on urban and mass-transport applications. New Zealand is extremely well positioned to look at rural electric vehicle development owing to its large primary sector and high levels of renewable energy generation.

``Also New Zealand farmers are the world’s best for productivity and being tech-savvy. Our farmers expect their equipment to function to a high standard, so they are the ones who can best determine how well an electric vehicle conversion satisfies their requirements.

``With battery costs likely to fall and power densities set to rise in coming years, electric vehicles might conceivably provide a useful template for the future,’’ Dr Gaynor says.

UC is leading a major renewable energy project as New Zealand is targeting 90 percent of electricity generation to be from renewable sources by 2025. The Government granted UC $6.3 million, 18 months ago, for this important research project.

For further information contact Dr Paul Gaynor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, on 0210439069 or UC media consultant Kip Brook on 0275 030168.


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