Everyone here at work was talking yesterday and today about GM's announcement that in preliminary testing the Volt gets 230 MPG. If this is true, it's revolutionary.
But we (and by we I mean the cadre of drooling engineers and environmentalists) need to sit back for a second and ask ourselves two key questions:
1. If GM, one of the worst car manufacturers, who for the last 20 odd years has had anything but an impeccable record, who clearly resisted high mpg cars until the bitter end, who is going through bankruptcy...if GM can make an electric vehicle that gets 230 mpg, for goodness sake what could someone else do? I humbly submit that during TAE's lifetime a car will be in mass production that achieves 1,000 mpg.
It's not really that much of a stretch, actually. GM's technology gets about 40 miles on a battery, then the engine kicks in and recharges the battery. They believe they can get 5 recharges (plus the initial charge) for every gallon of gas in the tank. But the battery pack GM is using is not especially advanced. Research into supercapacitors, which are (in an oversimplified definition) basically batteries that charge virtually instantly, as well as other battery research is still in full swing. The Tesla Roadster, for example, can travel 244 miles on a single charge of its battery pack.
2. When will there be a Google of electric cars? For those who remember the fledgling days of the internet, just about as soon as the internet went mainstream, so too did search engines. Anyone remember "Infoseek" or "Lycos" or "Altavista"? I remember Ask.com emerging as an incredibly easy tool...just type in your question and 1 time in 10, it'd give you the correct answer. Microsoft search emerged, a typical behemoth with limited user functionality and way too much going on all over the screen.
Enter Google (and PageRank). A single line on a white screen enabled you to quickly get the exact information you needed, usually on the first query, and the first result link. It was, simply put, revolutionary in its function (while not inventing the search engine idea).
So you have Google, that took someone else's idea, and turned it into an awesome, wonderful product.
I humbly submit that electric vehicles are probably headed the same way. You currently have a cadre of small companies trying to develop and market their electric vehicles, like Tesla, Aptera, and others (good listing here), and you've got the Microsoft analogue, namely GM, with their less-than-stellar entry, the Volt.
I would suggest that if electric vehicle development continues with the same veracity (and it probably will based on the current Administration), that within the decade a company, possibly one on the list linked above, will emerge with the Google of electric vehicles. Their vehicle will be simple to operate, absurdly efficient, good-looking, safe, and reliable.
I am happy GM is developing the Volt, the absence of electric cars on the road today is an insult to human development. But until we completely separate ourselves from the combustion engine, we're really not much further along than when Daimler strapped an engine to a wagon 110 years ago.
Here's TAE's free instruction manual for any car manufacturer interested in a 1,000 mpg vehicle.
Double De-Coupled Drive Assemblies:
An ECM, brushless DC motor is used to drive a worm gear assembly which turns the drive shaft. This motor is driven by a trunk-bottom-mounted bank of ultracapacitors with a total weight just under 200 lbs. A single charge drives the car 140 miles. Capacitors can be discharge 100% without failing, unlike batteries, so the capacitor bank is not recharged until 140 miles have been driven. At that point, a compressed air-based motor turns a winding that rapidly recharges the capacitor bank. The compressed air motor is assembled for 3,000 psi air. It takes about 2 minutes to recharge the capacitor bank. The 3,000 psi air is sent from a 10 gallon holding tank. A regulator feeds the air to the compressed air motor at 3,000 psi, however the compression range of the 3,000-5,000 psi. By having this range, it allows the tank to be recharged as needed, to a much higher level than needed, like the air compressor you may have in your garage. The compressor is driven by a small, 2-stroke combustion engine about the size of a weed-whacker engine. This engine turns on whenever the air tank reaches 3,000 psi and runs the pressure back to 5,000 psi. This process takes about 10 minutes and consumes 1/4 gallon of fuel.
You can recharge the capacitor bank 2 times before the compressed air tank must be recharged. You can recharge the compressed air tank 4 times per gallon of gas/oil mix. This means you get 8 recharges per gallon of gas.
If you add in the initial charge, you have 9 charges, at 140 miles each, for a grand total of 1260 mpg.
What's hilarious is that except for the supercapacitors, I have all the parts necessary to build this engine sitting in the high-pressure lab not 50 feet from where I am sitting. Just call me Larry Page.
Leaving Bad Enough Alone
5 minutes ago