Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Electrathon America

Description: 

The goal of the Electrathon is to provide a spectator sport that will build public awareness of the capabilities and potential of efficient electric vehicles.

Developed around specific rules designed to keep costs down and competition high, these unique vehicles offer an opportunity and challenge to experiment, learn and compete.

Electrathon is a tremendous educational opportunity and a stimulating sport for schools with industrial arts curriculum combining physics, mathematics, electronics, auto technology and graphic design. It's a hobby for tinkerers and experimenters of any age.

The Electrathon format rewards strategy, skill and common sense, by limiting battery capacity and rewarding endurance.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Videos about the Eliica

The Eliica is a concept electric vehicle that's driven with Lithium Ion batteries and can go very high speed.

Electric vehicle Eliica is a TV broadcast going over the vehicle and funding. Oh, and the TV personality goes gaga over the G-forces in accelerating the car.

Kaz Eliica A promotional video describing life in the day of an Eliica owner.

Eliica VS Porsche showing the Eliica smoking a Porsche.

Videos of an electric go-kart

Electric Go Kart is two and a half minutes of riding around an abandoned garage late at night in an electric go-kart. The kart is extremely quiet except for the squeeling tires. I suppose gas go-karts are probably very loud, and to an experienced go-karter the quiet would be eerie.

Electric Go Kart is some more of the same kart in the same garage.

Electric Go Kart Rundown is the same guy explaining the construction and operation of his go-kart. It's driven with an E-Tek motor and an Alltrax controller.

My brother's electric go-cart is someone completely different riding an electric go-kart around on a winter day.

Kartracing drifting And to give an idea of the contrast. Here's some gas gokarts racing around a track. See how noisy they are? Isn't the noise annoying?

Videos of a guy making a first test of his electric motorcycle

Here's a series of videos showing the initial test of a home built electric motorcycle.

Preparing for Test Ride shows him doing final hookup of the system and explaining that "yesterday" he had fried the contactor, so his motorcycle is always "on".

Test Ride 1 shows him gingerly making his first ride with the motorcycle, and quickly disappearing down the street. It's a real zippy motorcycle.

Test Ride 2 shows the return trip from that initial ride. His buddy claims he made it to 40 miles/hr.

Test Ride 3 shows the return from the second ride, and his buddy asking some questions. Notice the alltrax controller. That explains why his bike is taking off so fast.

Test Ride 4 starts down the street, despite the rain.

Test Ride 5 shows him returning the last time.

Electric Motorcycle Demo He finished the motorcycle as a 72 volt system, E-Tek, and a 72 volt converter (which he mistakenly calls a DC-DC). This is a full demo of it being ridden around town and in traffic.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

How much has Big Auto lied?

Lick My Silent Sports Car ... How much has Big Auto lied? Take a drive in this four-wheel electric orgasm, and find out: This is an opinion column that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 2, 2006. It's a wonderful rant about electric cars, the big car companies, and the movie Who killed the Electric Car?, Who Killed the Electric Car?

He's talking about the new car from Tesla Motors which I've covered: Battery-Fueled Car Will Smoke You and "a world 100% full of Prius drivers is still 100% addicted to oil"

Or, as the column says:

It's a new sports car that looks deliciously like a Lotus Elise and reportedly drives like Michael Schumacher's wet dream and goes from zero to 60 in about four seconds with so much torque and freakishly instantaneous power it makes the gods swoon.

This car, it has a top speed of 130 mph. It has a range of 250 miles. It also has GPS navigation and air-conditioning and air bags and it surely will come with a very badass sound system. It has heated seats and (I presume) iPod integration and Bluetooth. You know, just like a real car.

Oh, and by the way, this car? It's completely silent. It is 100-percent emissions-free. Doesn't even have a tailpipe. Because it has no internal combustion engine of any kind.

I've covered their business plan earlier. However the specs on this car sure are a head turner ... High speed, long range, great looks, it's sure different from the large compromises that previous electric vehicle owners have had to make.

In this guys rant he tries to say the car companies have lied to us. Well, that car wouldn't have been possible a few years ago. The issue here is the battery choice and recent advances in lithium battery construction.

I explained it here: Batteries that pack a punch without a pop ... Different types of batteries carry different amounts of electricity. You measure this in kilowatt-hours per kilogram and kilowatt-hours per liter. The link above has more details on what that means. In practical terms the gasoline to drive a typical car 30 miles can be carried in a gas can, and weighs a couple pounds, while the batteries for an electric car to drive 30 miles might weigh 500 lbs.

However that analogy is too simplified. For lead-acid batteries those batteries might weigh 500 lbs, while for Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries they might weigh 250 lbs, and for Lithium batteries they might weigh 125 lbs.

The difference is energy density, or the amount of electricity that can be carried in a battery of a certain size. Gasoline has much higher energy density than any type of battery. However lithium based batteries have enough of a higher energy density to cross a threshold where a car driven by lithium batteries is fast enough and can go far enough on a charge to catch peoples attention.

The batteries that are used in the Tesla Motors car weren't available 8 years ago when the car companies were building their electric cars. They had to make do with lead acid and in some cases NiMH batteries. What made the difference is portable electronic gadgets like cell phones, digital cameras, and laptop computers. The same equation of energy density played out with those devices, and those manufacturers were highly incentivised to explore and develop alternatives. Hence, lithium batteries received a lot of attention and research and development, and they are getting better, cheaper, and safer each year.

Safety is important considering stories like: Dell probes incendiary laptop incident, Dell said to have 'dozens' of burned laptop incidents on file, Dell laptop goes up in smoke, Dell laptop smoked in Singapore, Two more laptops light up ... I've seen news articles of peoples cell phones blowing up in their pockets. This video on video.google.com should demonstrate the danger.

However ... Both Valence Technology and a123 Systems have developed new formulations of lithium batteries that are supposed to be extremely safe. In other words, in the near future these newer lithium based batteries will become safe enough, and widely enough produced, to enable car makers to make effective electric vehicles.

At the same time the big car makers are trying to sell us all on fuel cells. But fuel cells are still 10 or more years into the future, they say, and they have been telling us for the last 20 years that fuel cells were 10 years away. So, if the fuel cell promise is always 10 years into the future, then will the promise ever be fulfilled?

With the big car companies stuck in fuel cells as the answer, how will the lithium batteries make it to cars? We can see with the Tesla Motors car the promise of electric vehicles being fulfilled. It's a car that doesn't have to make compromises because the batteries are good enough. But, the question is whether Tesla Motors can grow big enough to make a normal persons car (rather than a rich persons car) for the masses and compete against the car industry and oil industry? In "a world 100% full of Prius drivers is still 100% addicted to oil" I noted that is exactly their plan. That this rich persons toy is just the beginning, that they are plowing all available money into developing further cars for the more typical person.

Another possibility is China or India. Both countries have companies producing electric vehicles today. Perhaps some of those cars could be imported to the U.S. and outfitted with these new lithium batteries?

The Zap! Xebra is an example of this, except it is currently being outfitted with lead-acid batteries. At 40 miles/hr and 40 mile range it's suitable only for around-town use that doesn't require going on the highways. But it is an example of a car being constructed in China, and imported to the U.S.

The Reva, an electric City Car made in India is another example. It's a very tiny two person car, again suitable for city use. It is made in Bangalore India and is being imported to some foreign countries like England.