The little Aussie EV that could?

A small company from Australia has developed an elegant electric engine that might rival gas guzzlers on the racetrack... and beyond.

You may not have heard of ELMOFO, but if everything keeps going their way this little company from Newcastle might be about to make history in the world of electric vehicles.

ELMOFO stands for Electro-Motive-Force although some press have found more colourful definitions made famous by Hollywood gangsters.

The man behind the project is a typical old school solar industry guy – battled for years, built a successful solar business, a fan of all things electrical and bit of a tinkerer.

But things changed for Brett Sutherland a year or so back when he jumped in head first and decided to build an electric race car – and take on internal combustion race cars in a head-to-head battle, with his own money.

Brett and his team started out by looking at suitable chassis and kits and settled on the Radical Sportscar. Radical have a fine pedigree of building record-setting race cars and high performance street legal versions, too. The Radical SR8 is built around a standard platform which makes for close and entertaining racing and has a race class all of its own around the world and here in Australia. As one writer from the ecomento website said

...Indeed, the frightening pace of the Radical SR8 is legendary. For a long time an SR8 held the lap record for a production car at the NĂ¼rburgring Nordschleife until it was finally beaten in 2009 by something even faster, a Radical SR8 LM, in a time of six minutes forty-eight seconds. The Porsche 918 Spyder can only just get within 10 seconds of that time.

The ELMOFO team has developed the package in conjunction with Radical, adapting it to accept an all-electric drivetrain which they co-developed with some of the world's leading electric equipment manufacturers. ELMOFO’s development work included a stunning looking liquid cooled battery system which provides physical protection for the Kokam Lithium Polymer cells, essential in a race environment and enhances performance. They also developed an evolution of the legendary AMRacing IPM oil cooled motor, made famous by Lightning motorcycles which recently pounded every other motorcycle into submission when it won the infamous Pikes Peak challenge and which has also set an electric land speed record.

This is the second electrified version of a Radical SR8; an Alaskan company converted a road registered version in 2010 and successfully drove it 16,000 miles down the Pan American Highway. Lasting 140 days in total and including 70 days of actual driving, they completed the Alaska-to-Argentina expedition and demonstrated that this package can really work – and electro-motive packages have come a long, long way since 2010.

The AMRacing motor, for example, is one of the highest powered and most advanced electric motors around and the ELMOFO team are confident they can deliver enormous power from this electro-motive powerhouse. So far, they are delivering around 416kW (565bhp) of power and 600Nm of torque. For comparison, the standard non-electric SR8 is rated at around 316kW (430bhp) through it’s a 2.7L V8 engine.

That, my friends, is mightily impressive and just why this car might be about to make some history.

The ELMOFO team have recently conducted a number of track tests and the results have been excellent, especially given that they are just getting started and have yet to fully “dial-in” both the electric drive train and the race car package. A number of conventional Radical drivers have tested the ELMOFO package, with overwhelming positive responses. And in something of a coup for the team, they have signed up Australian motor racing legend John Bowe as the official ambassador and it now looks likely that Bowe will get behind the wheel for the entire 2014 season. Bowe described the ELMOFO as “very smooth, very torquey, much like a 7.0L V8”.

It is perhaps this statement from Bowe which highlights the real potential of the electro-motive package in the ELMOFO car. Brutally powerful and incredibly simple it consists of a battery pack, a controller, a brain and a motor connected together with some fat copper. That is substantially different from an internal combustion engine that has literally thousands of moving parts, a gearbox and clutch system and in highly strung race engines they require constant tuning and maintenance.

Being from a solar background, ELMOFO have a portable, solar powered fast charger to go with their car and will use 2014 to demonstrate the race potential, reliability and low running costs of these cars.

Based on the results of other electric vehicles in competition around the world, I’m betting we might just see some history made next year based on good old Australian ingenuity and a willingness to have a go.

Nigel Morris is director of Solar Business Services.


Graph for The little Aussie EV that could?

I bet you’d like a ride in it, wouldn’t you? Well the good news is ELMOFO is a two-seater and is offering a number of sponsorship opportunities, some of which include hot laps. If you’re interested in being part of history and having a  little fun, you can email us here for a sponsorship package.