Brett Sutherland's Warners Bay company ELMOFO makes electric trains, boats, cars and motorbikes

Valentine’s Brett Sutherland has built solar-powered electric cars, motorbikes, boats and even a train.

Mr Sutherland has been in the solar industry for 18 years.

The 47-year-old can see the world moving to solar energy much faster than previously imagined.

The rising costs – economic and environmental – of fossil-fuel generated electricity were forcing change.

Mr Sutherland said people like Tesla founder Elon Musk were inspiring people to move away from fossil fuels. 

He said Tesla had demonstrated that electric cars can outperform petrol cars. 

He added that Mr Musk was increasing awareness of the possibilities of fast electric cars and solar-powered homes with batteries and storage.

“You can go off the grid and be in charge of your own destiny,” Mr Sutherland said.

Mr Sutherland’s Warners Bay-based company ELMOFO last year built the electric drive system and lithium batteries for what was thought to be the world’s first fully solar-powered train.

The Byron Bay-based train, a former “red rattler” that ran on the Newcastle line, was retrofitted to run quietly and pollution-free.

A diesel engine was replaced with an electric drive system.

Mr Sutherland believes more trains will follow suit.

“There’s definitely interest from other parts of the train industry to do some form of solar generation or energy capture into batteries.”

Back in 2010, he bought a DeLorean and converted it into an electric car.

The DeLorean brand was made famous in Back to the Future movies.

Mr Sutherland wasn’t able to make it fly, “or go through time”.

But its conversion was a success, with the electric drive system performing better than its previous V6 petrol engine.

The success of the DeLorean project inspired him to build a high-performance electric race car, named the Radical.

It was thought to be the first electric race car in Australia, and possibly the world, to compete against petrol-powered equivalents.

In 2014, the Radical won its class, beating petrol-powered V8s.

It was described at the time as a “big leap towards zero-emission electric vehicle racing”.

The company has also converted motorbikes and jet boats to electric.

Mr Sutherland uses solar power at his business and home.

“We’re trying to lead by example,” he said.

He said solar was now affordable and the price would fall further. He added that solar batteries would become “more and more affordable”.

“Everyone will have some form of solar and battery in the future. If they want to go off grid, they’ll increase the size of that.”


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