"On June 8, 2000, Australia got a glimpse of a possible future for its
It looked familiar enough – like a sleek remake of the best-selling Holden
Commodore – as it drove towards Uluru, trailing the Olympic Torch Relay.
But inside the iconic frame was something new to these shores: a hybrid
powertrain, combining a four-cylinder engine with a 50kW electric motor.
The ECOmmodore hybrid concept Holden and the CSIRO developed promised to use
half the fuel as a conventional model but was never put into production.
Holden and the CSIRO, which developed the electric motor, its super-capacitors
and lead-acid batteries, said their ECOmmodore concept vehicle used half the
petrol of a conventional model and produced dramatically lower emissions.
“It was clearly the way of the future – it was what we had to do,” says Laurie
Sparke, who was Holden’s head of innovation at the time and led the carmaker’s
two-year collaboration with the CSIRO.
“Environmental issues were already of great concern – fuel economy, emissions,
global warming – even at that stage.”
The world’s first mass-produced hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, was months away
from going on sale in Europe and the US after it launched in its native Japan
three years earlier.
Sparke says he had one meeting with the Holden board to convince them to keep
investing in the hybrid concept, arguing the technology was vital for the
company’s future success.
“Their response was: ‘our customers want V8s, they don’t want electric cars’,”
Holden’s decision makers may have been right at the time. Now the world has
changed, and quickly."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics