Making the case for sustainable transport; Making the case for sustainable transport;

Making the case for sustainable transport

The SolarTuk Expedition is aiming to make as much noise as possible for renewable energy, sustainable transport and a low-carbon future as the little tuk tuk travels the Australian East Coast during late 2018.

Two of Arup’s Adelaide team - Jack Clarke and Hannah Sharp - are SolarTuk developers and adventurers, on a mission to prove the viability of the solar powered electric vehicle.

Arup is proud to support the SolarTuk Expedition’s 3,000+ km journey across the Snowy Mountains, through capital cities and regional centres, to the Great Barrier Reef.


The SolarTuk Expedition team The SolarTuk Expedition team

Jack Clarke

Jack joined our Environment and Resources team in November 2016. He’s a systems engineer and ecological economist, working across water, industrial, waste, process, energy and agri-business in Australia and internationally. Outside work, Jack’s a keen traveller, living, working and visiting places across the globe; most recently working with Arup in a six-month ‘remote-office’ trial in different locations across the Americas.

How did you start on this journey of building a solar tuk tuk?

Our team was both frustrated by the lack of progress or discussion in Australia about sustainable transportation options, and inspired by attending the Australian Electric Vehicle Association’s Expo and seeing members of the community taking it upon themselves to bring about sustainable development. We knew we wanted to embark on a real adventure, showcase sustainable transportation and engage with as broader audience as possible – and the idea for the SolarTuk Expedition was born!

How did you begin this project with RMIT University?

Members of our SolarTuk team have done great work in the past with RMIT – supervising impressive final year projects, running community development and human centred design engagement with their students through Unbound, and also in research and design. We reached out to RMIT with an idea for the project, and one year later, our team of 11 final year engineering students has taken out the 2018 EnGenius design award for best student project. It’s a testament to the value of offering real final year engineering projects: there are so many benefits for the students, the external organisation (us) and the university alike.

What was the biggest technical challenge in designing this tuk tuk?

Fitting in the new batteries! We wanted to create a long-range vehicle to take across Australia and the world, so we’ve retro-fitted 30 kWhs of battery pack from a Tesla Roadster and re-certified the vehicle according to Victorian regulations. This lets us travel 300kms each day, making us an unstoppable (but slow moving) force for sustainable development!

SolarTuk at Arup's Sydney office SolarTuk at Arup's Sydney office

What challenges have you forecast for your 3000+km trip?

We’re driving a vehicle designed for city transit across a large and harsh continent. Things will fail, and probably at unhelpful times, but that’s the point of an epic adventure! We’ve planned, we are prepared and we have assembled a brilliant team. We are especially looking forward to driving up Mt Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia, simply to prove it’s possible and that range anxiety is a thing of the past.


Will you have a support vehicle?

Yes - the SolarTuk seats 5, and with camera and film crew we are a team of 6 to 10.

What are you hoping to achieve through this project? 

We hope to bring attention to the immediate need for sustainable transport, and widespread sustainable development in general, across Australia. We’re showcasing the great progress being made by the communities, companies (like Arup) and councils taking action now – the leaders in the transition. We also optimistically hoping to start a conversation at the national level around electric vehicles – how can we better support their deployment, what options are there and what does the user experience of an EV look like for the everyday Australian?  

How does Arup’s ethos compliment this expedition?

Arup’s focus on sustainable development and Shaping a Better World is a perfect fit for the SolarTuk Expedition. Both are aiming to be impactful in their work to bring about a transition to a low carbon, zero waste, sustainable future that is more liveable, more equitable and more exciting than the world we live in today. We’re also proud to be supported by an organisation like Arup that lives its ethos. Arup’s work in renewable energy, the circular economy, sustainable housing and sustainable transportation projects in both Australia and internationally is really inspiring.

Hannah Sharp

Hannah joined Arup in 2010. She’s an environmental engineer and began her career designing water infrastructure before switching focus to sustainability, renewable energy and environmental planning. She’s travelled extensively for fun, work, volunteering and study, with highlights including Iceland, Turkey and India. Alongside her work with Arup, Hannah is undertaking a Master of Science, specialising in groundwater hydrology, and is looking to combine her engineering and environmental knowledge on renewable energy projects.  

How did you start on this journey of building a solar tuk tuk? 

The SolarTuk Expedition is the brainchild of Jack Clarke and Julian O’Shea from Unbound: we met through Engineers Without Borders. They have a history of wonderful projects to get people interested, engaged and excited about sustainability, renewable energy, humanitarian engineering and all things STEM. The Expedition is to draw attention to sustainable transport, electric vehicles and their role in a low carbon future – something that has received much less attention than Australia’s electricity grid. This project is an opportunity to engage with communities, schools, businesses and governments in a fun, accessible and memorable way about a topic that’s important for Australia’s future.

What are you hoping to achieve through this project? 

Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the environment are increasingly a part of the news cycle but more often than not, because of disaster or destruction. We also need to  celebrate the amazing things so many people are doing across Australia to make a difference, inspire communities, businesses and governments to take action and engage people across all walks of life in conversations about what a sustainable, low-carbon future could look like for Australia. For me, the SolarTuk Expedition is a way to do all that in a really fun and accessible way – if you saw a bright red tuk tuk driving through your town, wouldn’t you want to stop and find out more?

Branding on SolarTuk Branding on SolarTuk

Tell us more about the key partnerships you’ve built? 

We’ve had an amazing response to the Expedition. RMIT has been fantastic to work with and in its support of the project. It was such a win-win for us, the university and the students. We’ve reached out to climate and energy advocacy groups like Australia and SolarCitizens, Zero Emissions Noosa and Byron Bay, as well as firms like Diamond Energy and Arup, which have values and missions closely aligned with those of the project. Having them as project partners not only helps us reach a wider audience through their networks and opens many doors along the way, but as established and well-respected organisations, their support really strengthens the message of the Expedition. 

We have developed numerous informal partnerships with community organisations, schools and people living and working along the route. Having the chance to meet with and chat to them about sustainable transport, renewable energy and everything in between will be a highlight of the trip. 

How does Arup’s ethos compliment this expedition?

Having Arup as an Expedition partner is a great fit. Committed to shaping a better world, Arup is all about inspiring, creating and delivering the projects and ideas that will help make a more sustainable, low carbon future a reality, and that aligns perfectly with the mission of SolarTuk. With Arup on the team, we not only get to showcase some of the amazing projects happening around Australia, but also get to meet, start conversations with and find connections between those people already working in this space. We want the Expedition to be a catalyst for new ideas and positive change, and now Arup is alongside to take those ideas and run with them.