Spotlight on a student: Shawn Ingle

Finding ways to connect Melbourne commuters via light electric vehicles

Shawn Ingle is a master’s student with a passion for sustainable transport. While completing studies in Mechanical Engineering and Business at the University of Melbourne – and tinkering in the workshop on his own designs for a student racing car and electric bicycle – Shawn recently joined the first round of students in MEI’s new Zero Emission Energy Laboratory (ZEE Lab) internship program.

As part of the larger ZEE Lab program launched in February this year, the internship pairs talented graduate students with research and industry hosts to work on projects related to clean energy and transport technologies.

Shawn was paired with Electric Vehicles Pty Ltd to work on a blueprint for ‘micromobility hubs’ that could better connect commuters to public transport networks across Melbourne. We asked Shawn to tell us more about the experience, and where he thinks light electric vehicles fit in a clean energy future.

Can you tell us about your ZEE Lab internship project and your role in it?

My host organisation, Electric Vehicles Pty Ltd, is an Australian company active in the light electric vehicle (LEV) market. They were seeking compelling evidence of the public benefits of LEV fleets and their potential integration with public transport infrastructure.

Fleets of LEVs such as electric bikes and scooters can make urban mobility more affordable, efficient, and healthy by substituting car travel and serving as a first- and last-mile solution for public transport – filling in those often-missing links between home and a transit stop, and from a transit stop to a destination and vice versa. We call this ‘micromobility’, referring to the use of small, low-speed vehicles usually over short-distance trips.

My ZEE Lab internship project involved an analysis of micromobility fleet business models around the world to determine best-practice methods within the industry, and then applied those methods to design a system of ‘micromobility hubs’ tailored to Melbourne’s characteristics as a city.

My role was to conduct a thorough literature review, alongside data analytics and geographic information system (GIS) mapping using data from the Victorian Integrated Survey on Activity and Travel, to identify travel demand and best-suited locations for micromobility hubs in the City of Melbourne and City of Yarra.

Based on this work, I proposed a blueprint for a micromobility fleet system, supported by a financial analysis and a computation of the system’s benefits, including reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and reduced travel time due to decreased traffic congestion.

Why did you want to be part of ZEE Lab? What have you learned from the experience?

I was drawn to the ZEE Lab internship program as it presented an opportunity to explore my passion for sustainable transport. I had been actively seeking an internship to gain experience in electric vehicles to consolidate what I'd learned from some of my ongoing University projects, including the design and manufacture of a student racing car [pictured] and the creation of an electric bicycle.

Having heard about Electric Vehicles’ involvement in ZEE Lab through a discussion with MEI Director Professor Michael Brear, I was excited by the prospect of learning more about micromobility through a project designed to make a positive dent on CO2 emissions, while improving how a city’s transport network operates.

Electric student racing car

Throughout the three-month internship, I developed a range of skills that have both complemented and expanded on those I’ve picked up as an Engineering student. I’ve gained new skills in vehicle design, GIS and even graphic design, while improving my skills in data analytics, design for manufacture, research methodology, professional communication, and critical thinking.

I’ve also learned a huge amount about the global micromobility industry, and transport systems more generally. I really appreciated the opportunity to connect with people and organisations involved in engineering design, including the chance to work with a product design consultancy and engage with manufacturing facilities.

What did you study to land in this area of research?

I’m currently finishing off a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (with Business), having previously studied a Bachelor of Commerce – both at the University of Melbourne.

Have you received any honours or awards for your work so far?

In 2020, I was awarded the Alan Mulally Leadership in Engineering Scholarship – an award recognising 10 students globally who embody the ethos of the former Ford Motor Company CEO. More recently, I was awarded a Melbourne Graduate Scholarship (2022) and recognised as an AFR Top 100 Future Leader (2022).

What’s the bigger picture? How will your work contribute to the transition to a clean energy system?

Cities around the world are plagued by road congestion which emits huge amounts of CO2. In fact, about 20% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from transportation. Within the City of Melbourne, almost 1 million people travel daily, and during peak travel hours the existing system struggles to cope with road congestion and overcrowded public transport. Micromobility, including the use of bikes and scooters, can make urban mobility more affordable, efficient, and healthy by substituting car travel and serving as a first- and last-mile solution for public transport.

My work contributes to the body of research exploring both the business models and system design to allow small, light vehicles to move people in cities more effectively than current car-dominated systems. By moving towards systems that are designed to integrate low-emission and low-footprint vehicles, cities around the world could make a huge impact on lowering CO2 emissions while fostering healthier, more efficient transport systems.

What do you want to do next?

After graduating this year, I’ll be looking to continue to develop my skills as a mechanical design engineer in the sustainable transport industry. My dream is to contribute to a happier, healthier world through innovative engineering design with a sustainability focus.

Further information

Shawn and his supervisor, Dr Patricia Lavieri, may be contacted via email with further questions about this research. Organisations interested in hosting a ZEE Lab intern can contact MEI's Director of Major Projects, Dr Adrian Panow.

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