Episode 347: Innovation and Boundaries

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 18th of September 2023.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!



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 150 km of zero-emission driving.

And from a little further on in the article from thedriven.io entitled: Australian student wins award for design that could turn petrol cars into hybrids

Converting petrol cars using electric engines was typically an expensive and time-consuming process, he said, involving replacement 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.

End Quote

This is the sort of incremental change we need to get the move from fossil fuel to electric vehicles up and running. Now 150 klick range is not impressive but how many people, even in this wide brown land cover more than that in a day? Even if you have to, you still have the petrol engine in the vehicle. I suspect this  option would be much like your standard mobile phone, it’s recharged every night and ready to go in the morning. So too with the 150 klicks of electric range.

A quick google wang reveals the average commute length in Australia’s Capitals and Sydney is the highest at a terrifying 15 klicks.

A cheap way to convert petrol/diesel vehicles to electric for the short range runs will make a huge difference to emissions and reduce costs for the motorist. Young Alexander received an $8800 prize to continue development of his idea. The sooner, the better!


And as a quick reminder of why we need these sorts of innovations comes from The Guardian in piece entitled: Earth ‘well outside safe operating space for humanity’, scientists find


Earth’s life support systems have been so damaged that the planet is “well outside the safe operating space for humanity”, scientists have warned.

Their assessment found that six out of nine “planetary boundaries” had been broken because of human-caused pollution and destruction of the natural world. The planetary boundaries are the limits of key global systems – such as climate, water and wildlife diversity – beyond which their ability to maintain a healthy planet is in danger of failing.

From further in the article

The planetary boundaries are not irreversible tipping points beyond which sudden and serious deterioration occurs, the scientists said. Instead, they are points after which the risks of fundamental changes in the Earth’s physical, biological and chemical life support systems rise significantly.

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So, yeah, things are not good but could be a lot worse. The one area where humanity is doing well is the ozone layer and that is back within a safe range and we fixed what we’d broken on this one. Whilst we have form as a species for buggering things up, we can also have hope we can fix things. The bolt on electric conversion kit discussed previously being a case in point. Whilst I’m not looking forward to our coming summer, El Nino and all that entails, I have a feeling we might just pull this one off. Probably because I was inculcated with the idea that we are a flawed, magnificent, adaptable, thoughtful species by Tom Baker’s Doctor Who. And the more I contemplate REVR from earlier in this episode, the more convinced I am that, one, it’s a piece of genius because it’s so obvious once someone’s done it and two, we’ll see many more of this type of innovation coming at us fairly quickly. It’s not dissimilar to the sand based heat battery out of Finland where cheap materials, ag silos, sand and induction heater were connected together to heat the sand with renewable energy. This is then drawn off to heat a home, greenhouse, stock shed or whatever. The silo needs to be well insulated to hold the heat but from what I can remember, the sand reached 800 degrees c by the end of summer. That heat was sufficient to do the job through a long Finnish Winter/Spring. 

Simple components, organised in different ways to solve a real problem. It’s what makes us humans after all.

House Keeping

Now then, as my loyal listeners will be aware, this show has been a little haphazard in its publishing schedule. So to overcome this, because I have other shows and paid podcasting production work, I’ll be moving this show and all my shows onto a seasonal basis. The plan is a ten week season, three weeks off and then another ten and so on. This will allow me to batch record on a theme and dive much more deeply in each episode. 

I had considered just bumping along in the hope of returning to a weekly schedule but I don’t think time will allow this. And as ChangeUnderground and its previous incarnation, World Organic News is the first podcast I started, way back on 1 February 2016, I feel I should give my baby a respectful amount of time and effort. If news pops up during the seasons I think is relevant I’ll throw in a bonus episode to keep you, my listener informed as best I can on the continuing Climate Crisis and what we are doing to combat it.

As this is episode 347, I have a back catalogue I need to sort into seasons. It would be a bit odd for season one to have those 347 episodes and subsequent seasons to be ten episodes each. This will take some time but I’m currently reorganising the JM Podcating Show into this format so lessons will be learned as I rearrange those 80 episodes.

In the meantime I’ll try to publish an episode a fortnight until the reorg is completed. I thank you for your patience and continued listening support. It means the world to me. Thanks.

Until then let’s “Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil”!



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Australian student wins award for design that could turn petrol cars into hybrids


Australia’s commuting distance: cities and regions


Earth ‘well outside safe operating space for humanity’, scientists find


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