Australia’s travelling solar-powered laundry van

Rose Mary Petrass

Orange Sky Mobile Laundry Van

Did you know that in many communities across the country, Australians do not have access to reliable washing facilities? 

For people living in remote or disadvantaged communities, the idea of owning their own laundry machine or dryer is something that is simply out of reach. For many Indigenous communities, as well as for people experiencing homelessness, laundry facilities may be too costly to justify. 

This puts people at risk of sacrificing personal hygiene and dignity, which is something that no one should have to do. 

This is what gave Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett the idea for Orange Sky – Australia’s first free mobile laundry service. After launching the Waru Dryer last month, which is possibly the world’s first fuel-powered and solar battery-operated clothes dryer, the not-for-profit Orange Sky have now launched a travelling solar-powered laundry van in collaboration with REDARC and Canva

The world’s first solar-powered laundry van is equipped with three washers and three dryers, providing access to free laundry services and warm showers to the community. 

One of Orange Sky’s goals is to create “a safe, positive and supportive environment for people who are too often ignored or who feel disconnected from the community”. 

“Many people and families in remote communities don’t have access to basic facilities like washing machines and if they do, they are often overused and don’t last long – with new washing machines being extremely expensive [in remote areas and for people on very low income] and the geographical location making it challenging to find a technician to repair items,” says Orange Sky remote program manager, Judith Meiklejohn.

From a Brisbane garage to the open road

Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett started the idea for Orange Sky in a Brisbane garage in 2014, when they installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and drove around the local parks to wash and dry clothes for free. 

In remote communities, however, an old van would not do.

“We found the geographic remoteness, terrain and demand for laundry services, we needed to create a reliable vehicle that was built for the climate and greater usage, so that’s where the RV3.0 came in,” Nicholas says, explaining the genesis of their specially adapted remote vehicle (RV).

The program aims to have eight RV3.0 vehicles and three retrofit RV3.0 vehicles containing three washing machines and three dryers, and equipped with four 180-watt REDARC solar panels, 600-amp hours in lithium batteries and a battery management and charging system. 

The vehicles are designed with the open road in mind. Orange Sky travelled to 29 communities across Australia on a three-month trip from March to June this year in order to identify where services are needed most. 

“The thought of creating a more reliable, environmentally sustainable vehicle that has the ability to complete more loads of washing and drying and reduce maintenance requirements was something myself and the whole team were working towards for our remote community expansion, and thanks to the generous support of Canva and REDARC, our ideas have now come to life,” Nicholas says.