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Australian supercar proposed

Proposal: One of the wilder submissions to the PC suggests Australia make a $500k supercar, a la Holden's Hurricane.

Productivity Commission into local industry gets some left-of centre submissions

General News logo19 Feb 2014

By IAN PORTER

Australia should marshall its automotive technologies and build a $500,000 supercar for world markets as a means of keeping its car industry alive, the government-advising Productivity Commission has been told.

In order to attain the required production volumes, the supercar’s framework would also be used to underpin an electric van or truck, according to Docklands Science Park (DSP).

The DSP is a Victorian government-funded skunk works designed to encourage and commercialise new technologies.

Other submissions put to the commission since its Position Paper on the car industry was released include a plan to produce a basic sedan, tagged the “Falcodore”, for export to markets such as Russia and China, where B roads are the norm.

These left-of-centre suggestions were among a welter of submissions that poured into the commission after the release of its Position Paper last month.

In the paper, the commission recommended the cessation of all assistance to the local car-makers and the lifting of all restrictions on the importing of used vehicles.

These recommendations drew a virulent reaction from a number of Australians who place great store in the ability to make cars.

The proposed Australian supercar, with Formula 1-like performance, would draw on a range of cutting-edge technologies under development in Australia, the Docklands Science Park submission said.

For example, the supercar would make extensive use of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon in which the carbon atoms are densely packed, making it strong, light and nearly transparent when mixed with other materials.

In his submission, DSP chairman John Martin said the supercar body would be made of graphene and Kevlar and would act as a supercapacitor, storing enough electricity for a drive cycle.

Each wheel would be powered by an Axiflux electric motor, a radical design incorporating micro-processors that can turn off parts of the motor to ensure that the motor is always operating at peak efficiency, even at low outputs.

The supercar would be powered by a 500kW pulse combustion engine, similar to the new wave of pulse jets being developed for hyper-sonic aircraft. This would charge the supercapacitor body/chassis and power the Axiflux electric motors.

Mr Martin pointed out that the same framework could be used to build an electric van or truck, which could carry good “most economically, with very low emissions”.

Instead of a pulse combustion engine, the van would have a 650cc turbocharged engine working as a generator to charge batteries fitted with ultracapacitors.

Another manufacturing suggestion came from Mr Pete Mastalir, managing director of Rambor, an Australian manufacturer of underground mining equipment, including drill rigs, mixers and pumps, roofbolters and motors.

“Let's create an attractive opportunity for a consortium to buy the facilities from Ford & GM (General Motors),” Mr Mastalir says in his submission.

Mr Mastalir said the problem for the local industry in the past was that it was controlled by foreign companies. He said an Australian company would retain all profits here, reinvest in research and development, not be limited by corporation “parts bins” and be able to export anywhere.

“The biggest asset that we have is our already skilled people. We have knowledge, the skill and, I'm sure, a reinvigorated (restructured) industry to kick start into a new era of automotive manufacturing. All we need is the "shed" to do it.

“I know the export opportunities as I regularly travel extensively in the future growth markets of Russia and China. An Australian "Falcodore" would be perfect for the B roads of these countries, let alone the rest of the world,” Mr Mastalir says.

The reviews of the PC Position Paper were quite vitriolic towards both the commission and state and federal politicians.

The Professionals Australia group – formerly the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers – tore strips off the commission and its Position Paper.

“We believe the draft report overlooks many important factors, is excessively ideological and uses inadequate and inaccurate information, rendering many of its findings void,” said Professionals Australia chief executive Chris Walton.

Mr Walton urged the commission to recommend the government act to encourage the retention of the GM Holden and Toyota design and development operations.

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