QRP Transportation

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From: Wayne Burdick (burdick@interval.com)
Date: Wed Dec 07 1994 - 17:59:12 EST


OK, I realize that calling electric Vehicles "QRP Transporation" is
stretching things a bit. If you can forgive me for mixing my metaphors to
promote electric vehicles, you may want to read the report (below) of my
trip to EVS-12, the Electric Vehicle Symposium in L.A. I recall that at
least a few of you on the QRP list had mentioned that you were interested
in this.

73,
Wayne, N6KR

Here are the highlights:

- Worst news: There were no big breakthroughs announced, just incremental
improvements in batteries, controllers, and materials. Flywheel batteries,
fuel cells, Zinc-Air and other exotic technologies are not ready for prime
time. Typical range for all Electric Vehicles (EVs) is still around 40 to
120 miles, with top speeds between 40 and 120 MPH. Manufacturers are
targeting niches--"neighborhood cars," scooters, and utility flees--to
attract customers. Cost is still in the $15K to $40K range and the cars
will stay expensive for several years.

- Best news: There were many new prototype vehicles at this show, including
slick models from Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. These will get better by 1998,
as will their batteries. Small companies like Solectria and U.S. electric
car may soon be able to buy "gliders" (cars sans engines, etc.) from the
Ford, cutting costs by $3,000 or more. The ante is up; manufacturers are
now comparing this to putting a man on the moon, and, given sufficient
government subsidies, they are willing to accept the challenge.

- Most Fun: I got to drive the GM Impact. Incredible. Accelleration similar
to an RX7, smooth regenerative braking, great handling, but *zero* noise.
GM just grumbles about the California mandates and won't say if they're
going to have them for sale in quantity some day.

- Most Bizzare: Lawrence Livermore Labs was showing aerogels and
supercapacitors made from them. I got to hold a solid, 1-gram piece of
translucent aerogel that was around 1 cubic inch in volume and amazingly
strong for its weight (looked like a piece of quartz crystal morphed with a
soap bubble). One capacitor made of a carbon aerogel, 3" square and 3/8"
thick, had a 50-volt, 40 FARAD rating. Such capacitors might be used for
load levelling for battery packs, as well as to provide extra juice for
hill climbing.

- Conclusion: Auto manufacturers want to give birth to no-compromise EVs by
'98, but the truth is that between now and '98 they barely have time to
deploy something with minimal range and features--and they don't want their
name on it. But many consumers will purchase such a vehicle (myself
included). So, as a first step, the big 3 may help smaller producers make
the cars, then they'll buy pollution credits from them until their own cars
are ready. In the mean time, many forces are trying to kill the state
mandates, so would-be environmental lobbyists should start paying
attention.

International Concerns:

- EVs are a hot topic worldwide. Gas prices are are highest in Europe,
forcing ealier consideration of EVs. Japan also has higher prices than the
U.S. and has committed to a timetable. The U.S. has the lowest gas prices
in the world, and would probably not be bothering with an accellerated EV
introduction if not for California's 1998 mandate: 2% of all vehicles sold
in the state by then must be zero emission, meaning, for now, electric.

- The big 3 (Ford, GM, Chrysler) and their counterparts in Europe and
Japan, along with oil companies, are trying desperately to discredit EVs. I
talked to several EV program managers, and they are one schizophrenic
bunch; they'll brag about how wonderful their technology is, then in the
next sentence they'll cuss about how mandates will kill the EV market.

- Things are heating up quickly in France, which has approved government
subsidies to ease the price burden for consumers. Peugeot will sell
approximately 10,000 of their Electric 106 model cars by '96 and may come
back into the U.S. market.

- Three studies presented by Californian, Japanese, and British researchers
showed that EVs cut pollutants by 98% and CO2 by 50%. The CO2 reduction is
is much higher where power plants are using solar, wind, geothermal, and
nuclear power. (The latter is still unacceptable in its generation of toxic
waste, however, and will go away someday.)


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