Julian O’Shea

Innovation:
Solartuk Expedition

CEO, Unbound; BE (Electronics), University of Adelaide

Solartuk hits the road.

The humble three-wheeled tuktuk, also known as an auto-rickshaw, is used by millions of people around the world for their daily commute.

What it’s not known for is being part of a sustainable transport future or the vehicle of choice for a long-distance expedition.

Until now.

The SolarTuk Expedition was an innovative engineering, outreach and education project by Unbound founder Julian O’Shea and his team.

The project involved converting a Thai-built tuktuk into a three-wheeled, sun-powered, long-range electric vehicle to promote sustainable transport and a low-carbon future.

The project deliberately used an unlikely and attention-seeking vehicle as an engineering education and outreach project.

After working with RMIT University on the engineering, the team travelled around Australia to show that its unlikely green vehicle could go the distance.

This was a world-first journey across the Australian continent — from Melbourne to the Great Barrier Reef — by a solar-electric tuktuk.

The project deliberately used an unlikely and attention-seeking vehicle as an engineering education and outreach project. The tuktuk was re-engineered and certified for Australian road rules.

The major engineering involved the design and installation of solar panels, acquisition and installation of Tesla batteries, and vehicle modifications for overland travel.

The solar tuktuk is a 100 per cent electric, zero-emissions vehicle that aims to showcase low-carbon travel opportunities while also visiting remarkable local sustainability groups, including Zero Emissions Byron and Totally Renewable Yackandandah.

The project had a tight timeframe, going from conception to completed journey in about 10 months. In the process, the team achieved major partnerships and funding with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Geographic Society, Arup and RMIT University.

O’Shea aims to build on the Australian expedition with a global journey in 2019: a full global circumnavigation commencing in Southeast Asia, driving the length of the Eurasian continent, journeying across North America, and finally, the length of New Zealand.

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