Green Automotive Works on Electric Buses, But Still Plans 1,000-Mile EV

By · May 06, 2013

Ian Hobday

Ian Hobday

Has the United Kingdom been cultivating an EV company that will flourish in the United States? That’s certainly what Ian Hobday believes.

Hobday is C.E.O. of Liberty Electric Cars Ltd., a U.K.-based company, and simultaneously a director of Newport Coachworks Inc., a bus maker in the U.S. Both companies are now held under the umbrella of Green Automotive Company, Inc., which is based in Newport Beach, Calif. and listed in the U.S. Its shares are traded over the counter under the symbol GACR.

Newport Coachworks held an open house at its headquarter in Riverside, Calif. on May 4. For now, Newport Coachworks is working on an order for 432 buses from Don Brown Bus Sales Inc. of Johnstown, NY. Those vehicles will be powered by diesel or compressed natural gas. However, that’s only a springboard to an electric future.

“The normal fuel business is helping us fund our electric development,” Hobday told in an interview in Riverside during the open house.
The several dozen visitors touring the Newport Coachworks plant were generally impressed with the look of the finished Newport Coachworks buses. The start-up company was founded by Carter Read, who nearly three decades of experience in bus and limo manufacturing, according to Green Automotive. It acquired Newport Coachworks in October 2012.

Read was at the open house. He told that he had two companies in Las Vegas that would take as many electric shuttle buses as Newport Coachworks could provide. “I am very excited about electrification,” said Read.

By this September, just four months from now, Newport Coachworks hopes to have completed its first all-electric bus, said Hobday.

Continued Claims about Game-Changing Technology

As for recent reports that Liberty Electric has a battery that can get 1,000 miles to a charge, Hobday says he was slightly misquoted. But he doesn’t back down from the claim. There is a new battery technology called aluminum air that can provide that kind of range, he insisted. Why hasn’t someone used these Aluminum Air batteries if they are so great? They used to have two very dangerous electrolytes in them, but that problem has been resolved, said Hobday. By the way, a small detail: They also cannot be recharged; they have to be replaced. Battery swapping is the answer to that issue, he said.

Aluminum air batteries are significantly lighter and cheaper than lithium ion, and there are companies in Ireland, France, and the U.K. that are producing them, claimed Hobday. Liberty Electric is working with a company that asked it to use the aluminum air batteries in vehicles, he said. “In 18 months you will see a vehicle with an aluminum air battery,” said Hobday.

The company is also evaluating “a type of motor tech that would be game-changing,” said Hobday. It was developed in Canada works with magnetism in a way that allows it to have “beyond 100 percent” efficiency by returning energy to the battery while the vehicle is being driven, said Hobday. It needs six to nine months more work before it can be used in a test vehicle, he said.

Meanwhile, Green Automotive has become a player in the EV retail and service sectors. It acquired GoinGreen, a U.K.-based chain of EV retail and service stores, in January 2013. GoinGreen sells and services a wide variety of electric vehicles, including the some 1,400 G-Wiz EVs that have been sold in the U.K. The G-Wiz is a pure-electric micro-car produced in India by Indo-Reva Electric Car Co. GoinGreen aims to open stores in the U.S., as well, said Hobday.

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