Australia’s automotive engineers have fired a second salvo in their to build another car here.
We’ve got the talent to design and build a car of our own, with multiple applications including a purpose-built police car
It would be electric, substantially autonomous, built of advanced composite materials and made 50,000 to 100,000 produced each year.
That’s the message from the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A), the peak Asia-Pacific body for mobility engineers.
SAE-A says Australia still has much of the engineering talent that designed and built the aXcess Australia car 20 years ago.
It was a joint initiative of the Australian Federal Department of Industry, Science & Tourism, Market Australia, the Energy Research & Development Corporation, CSIRO and the State Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia together with in-kind support from 130 independent Australian automotive component manufacturers and designers.
“COVID-19 has shown the importance of car manufacturing, and we propose to start with a car that no other country could build,” he said.
“We would design it at the cutting edge of near-horizon technology, and we would build it in the medium volumes which Australia has always excelled in.
One of the proposals put forward is for a purpose-built police car that would offer law enforcement agencies unique operational and financial benefits.
Mr Feeney said a specialised design would free police forces from the many compromises involved in adapting a volume-built car to their needs.
“Police cars all around the world are cluttered with add-on equipment that was never a design priority for the cars on which they are based,” he said.
“But our unique police car will be designed from the ground up to meet all the requirements of police forces both in Australia and overseas.”
Australian transportation design house Delineate is experienced in designing modified police vehicles.
CEO Rob Veitch says a purpose-built car would solve a lot of problems.
“It takes a lot of work to fit modern police equipment to an existing design, especially if you need to convert that vehicle back to a normal car after its police service life,” he said.
“A car designed from the outset to meet police needs could also be designed for a very specific second life, most likely as a taxi, with easy conversion as part of the design.”
The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore “police packs”, introduced in 1978 and 1981 respectively, served 30-plus years for general duties, highway patrol and prisoner transport.
Mr Feeney said the situation changed dramatically by 2016, when police forces in Australia and New Zealand knew their preferred cars would soon cease production.
“Around that time, the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) sought proposals for three national police cars, for prisoner transportation, highway patrol and general duties,” he said.
“Since then we have seen BMW, Mercedes, Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Chrysler among the prominent suppliers to Australia’s police forces.
“Some of these imported cars cost thousands more than the Commodores and Falcons they replace, so we believe we could produce a special-purpose car at a competitive price.”
Mr Feeney said the equipment and features fitted to Australian police cars could be readily designed into the electric, composite, modular and partially autonomous new car.
“A powerful engine and automatic transmission are part of it, along with minimal maintenance, and these are easily matched by an electric car,” he said.
“Then there’s radar equipment, a calibrated speedometer, roof-mounted number plate recognition cameras and a laptop computer with mobile data terminal – all much more readily built-in than added on.
“Also on board are video cameras, special radios, random breath testing gear, traffic cones, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, lights and sirens, plus bullet proof vests, batons and torches.
“Once you start adding up the cost and complexity of accommodating all this gear in a mass-produced car, it’s easy to see the potential for designing them in from day one.”
The bottom line is that without a car to build these guys are out of a job — for good!