A kit designed to quickly and cheaply turn petrol cars into hybrid vehicles has won the prestigious James Dyson Award and could one day help cut Australia’s transport emissions.
RMIT student Alexander Burton, 21, on Wednesday claimed the national design award for his creation called REVR, or Rapid Electric Vehicle Retrofit, that he initially designed for his 20-year-old Toyota Corolla.
If successful, the REVR kit could add an electric motor and battery pack to standard petrol vehicles to deliver up to 150km of zero-emission driving.
The award comes as transport emissions continue to rise in Australia despite efforts to cut pollution and move from petrol and diesel cars to electric and hybrid.
Burton, who is studying sustainable systems engineering and industry design, told AAP he had been working on a system to transform petrol cars as a “passion project” when he became aware of the James Dyson Award.
“I’ve been wanting to convert my car for quite a while, a 20-year-old Toyota, just because it would be great to have an electric vehicle and they’re still expensive at the moment,” he said.
Converting petrol cars using electric engines was typically an expensive and time-consuming process, he said, involving replacment of existing parts with custom-built mechanics.
His vision for the REVR kit was to create an axial flux motor that could be mounted to the rotor of the disc brake, a battery pack that would fit inside the spare wheel well, and a sensor that could be added to the accelerator.
The kit, he said, would add between 100 and 150km of electric range and could be fitted within hours by car enthusiasts or an auto shop.
“You could drive the vehicle around, do all your commuting with the electric motor, and you could remove most emissions of the vehicle,” Mr Burton said.
“If you were going on vacation and there weren’t many charging points, you could switch it over to the petrol engine.”
Burton said he would use the award’s $8800 prize to build a “fully functional kit”.
Dyson design engineering head John McGarva, who helped judge the 2023 awards, said REVR represents an innovative way to reduce emissions.
“Alexander has done a brilliant job in packing the motor into such a tight space and has built virtual and physical prototypes to understand the design space and performance limitations,” he said.
“I look forward to the next round of prototypes which, if successful, will enable this innovation to be commercialised.”
The vehicle conversion kit could come at a challenging time for the automotive industry after figures showed transport emissions rose by 6.4 per cent in the year to March despite higher sales of electric and hybrid vehicles.