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Transportation Power Technology

Americans Refusing To Wait For Mainstream EVs 779

Posted by timothy
from the voltage-too-low dept.
hazehead writes "The growing trend of folks refusing to wait for big-car manufacturers to deliver mainstream electric vehicles is starting to get some press. From DIY tinkerers in Atlanta trying to keep money from going overseas (or simply from leaving their wallets) to a guy in Oregon building an open source Civic conversion kit, Americans are taking energy policy in their own grease-stained hands."
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Americans Refusing To Wait For Mainstream EVs

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  • by Watershawl (1344787) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:01PM (#24602439)
    Most manufacturers are going to have a version of an electric car (EV) by 2010, but since car manufacturers have such long development times, by the time we actually need it, its too late. I'm glad these heroes are doing something about it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Narpak (961733)
      Well Ford did have Think, which they bought form Norwegian developers, but when California changes it's emission laws Ford killed it off. Now that people want to buy Electric Cars, they can't because Ford sold it off again. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Nordic [wikipedia.org]
  • by subl33t (739983) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#24602487)

    ... and getting some press, car companies will step-up the EV production. They don't want any competition eating into their future market.

  • Highly Irregular (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:05PM (#24602505) Homepage

    > Americans are taking energy policy in their own grease-stained hands.

    Don't worry. The regulators will put a stop to it. Can't have people going around doing things without permission.

    • Not necessarily the regulators. There are folks out in California (where else!) trying to get biofuel off the ground. They collect old frying oil and refine it and burn it in diesel engines. Unfortunately, the local businesses that collect said oil (for a fee) from those restaurants are petitioning the CA legislature to make it crime unless your licensed because it's a ''public health hazard'' if anyone but them collect this horrible and dangerous cooking oil!

      Please, you Californians, if you see any of tha

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        Not necessarily the regulators. There are folks out in California (where else!) trying to get biofuel off the ground. They collect old frying oil and refine it and burn it in diesel engines. Unfortunately, the local businesses that collect said oil (for a fee) from those restaurants are petitioning the CA legislature to make it crime...

        Looks like regulators to me. They will of course, use the excuse that "The industry requested it". The real reason is taxes. Eventually all biofuels (including old fry

      • by jmichaelg (148257) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @06:23PM (#24607265) Journal

        You're citing businesses trying to block alternative approaches.

        If you really want to see a mess, take a look at Compressed Natural Gas. Used to be you could convert your truck/car/bus whatever to run on natural gas/gasoline. When you burn natural gas, it burns cleaner than gasoline and is cheaper than gasoline. Right now, CNG is going for under a buck/gallon in Oklahoma, $2.60 in California.

        The EPA and the California Air Resources Board, for reasons unexplained, decided to regulate conversion companies out of existence. EPA started out by mandating that companies that manufacture the retro-fit kits get their kits tested for each and every car model it was being installed on. Smog test wasn't good enough, it had to be a special $40,000 EPA test. California, not wanting to be left out, upped the test fee to $300,000. *EVERY* US kit manufacturer threw in the towel on the domestic market. The costs of the testing put the costs of the kits up so high that no one would buy them. The only way the remaining manufacturers stay in business is exporting kits to other regions of the world like Europe and South America. European countries only require that the engine has a regular smog test after the install to verify the kit is properly installed and functioning correctly. If you happen to find a kit [ebay.com], you don't dare install it in California because the cops will confiscate your car.

        We have enough domestic natural gas to run every car in the United States for 100 years. We're the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and we can't use it except to cook and make electricity.

        It's damn stupid.

  • Conversion Kits (Score:4, Informative)

    by janeuner (815461) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:05PM (#24602509)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bombula (670389)
      Lots of good info on converting the American Prius to a PHEV (plug-in hybrid EV) here [eaa-phev.org], along with lots of other related DIY projects and conversion kits if you click around the site.
  • Depends on the area (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:08PM (#24602587)

    There are quite a few folks in the Seattle area tooling around in home-brew electrics, including a co-worker of mine who's done a nice job with a Miata. There are two local factors that encourage this. One is that, being in Boeing's backyard, it's fairly easy to obtain a surplus jet-engine starter motor. The other is that most of our electricity comes from falling water, and therefore is relatively cheap.

    • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @03:00PM (#24603533)

      We have an active electric vehicle group [veva.bc.ca] here in Vancouver. Their cars are almost all DIY conversions. We don't have Boeing jet engine starter motors, but we have an active group and cheap electricity.

      The cars are all usable on the road, 100+ km/h top speed, none of this golf cart neighbourhood vehicle nonsense. The range varies from 70 km per charge for lead acid batteries to 200+ km per charge for the fancy stuff. Since my commute is 10 km each way, I have followed this with interest.

      ...laura

  • Not true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:10PM (#24602603)

    EVs are way more frugal with their power compared to gasoline engines. So much so, that even taking into account loss in transmission lines and energy lost in charging batteries, you still come out ahead. I'll take an extra $100 on my electric bill than at the gas station any day... plus I don't have to make a special trip to 'fill up' the car.

    Gas engines are at best about 30% efficient... as in only 30% of the energy consumed actually goes to making momentum for moving the car.

    This is just more BS perpetuated by those who stand to lose their income streams from oil, including car mfgs who stand to lose the income stream of spare parts, since EVs are waaaaay more reliable than gas or diesel engines.

    I can't wait until somebody finally gets around to making a full EV car that seats two with ABS and Airbags, PS, Heat and AC, even if it only goes 100 miles. If they can do it under $25k I'm there with cash in hand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sm62704 (957197)

      Gas engines are at best about 30% efficient... as in only 30% of the energy consumed actually goes to making momentum for moving the car.

      And every time you touch the brake pedal, your efficiencey goes down even farther, as you just converted the momentum that you converted that 30% of your gasoline to, to waste heat.

      Nothing drags your mileage down like stop signs, tailgating, and not taking your foot off the accelerator when the light ahead is red.

      That's one plus for a hybrid - rather than its brakes conver

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:10PM (#24602609) Homepage

    Americans are taking energy policy in their own grease-stained hands.

    Perfect... Let the government worry about courts, police, and military. The rest we'll do ourselves, thanks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Perfect... Let the government worry about courts, police, and military. The rest we'll do ourselves, thanks.

      If that's all the government is doing, then where do you plan to drive your homebuilt EV?

      If people with your mindset had their way, there would be no public highway system, national electric infrastructure, food/worker safety regulation, child labor laws, etc etc etc. In the last 80 years, the government did a lot of things that we now take for granted. And private industry certainly wasn't about to do any of it.

  • Very wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:14PM (#24602677)

    Common argument, but so very wrong, because producing electricity in large power plants, even from really disastrous ones as coal or oil, is very much more efficient than producing it in millions of small engines.
    Subsequently adding cleaning solutions is also very much simpler/cheaper than doing the same to millions of small engines.
    And later changing the production from one system (say coal or oil) to another (say nuclear, wind or solar) is very much simpler than to replace millions of cars.

  • by sabre86 (730704) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:18PM (#24602751)
    From the CNN article:

    Other components such as a fuel injector were replaced with their electric counterparts

    What's the electric counterpart to a fuel injector? A... wire?

    --sabre86

    • Serious answer (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:42PM (#24603219)
      (my first post on an MSI Wind, and worth waiting for. It is so nice to have a proper keyboard, and the screen is better than I expected.)

      The job of the injector is to provide a metered supply of fuel, so the nearest answer is probably the plug, not the wire. High current connectors are not trivial to implement - the Vectrix scooter had a recall because of a problem in this area. But, generally speaking, it is the metering system - the controller - that is the major technical challenge of an EV. Because the batteries are available, if expensive, the brushless motors are available (and really solid proven technology), but connecting the two together is hard. The Vectrix has an advanced controller that allows regenerative braking, as do some hybrid cars, and effective regen is a major factor in mileage. The controller needs to be extremely efficient to avoid wasting lots of energy as heat, it needs to be very reliable and durable, and it needs to function correctly under many load conditions. In fact, I would submit that the sheer technical cleverness of modern motor controllers is what makes EVs possible on modern roads. If you had to start one like a tram, moving a huge brass switrch bar across a resistor bank to prevent the motor shorting before it ran up to speed, they would be impossible to commercialise.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:18PM (#24602753) Homepage Journal

    your cash goes to:

    1. Chavez in Venezuela to support anti-American jingoism
    2. Putin in Russia to support Russian Neoimperialism such as in Georgia
    3. Bin Laden via Saudi Wahhabism, the ultra-fundamentalist form of Saudi Islam that gives rise to treating women like cattle, nonSunnis like subhumans, and Islamic terrorism in its myriad forms wherever such groups are supported by conservative Arabic funds

    the American government doesn't seem to think getting off foreign oil is as much a priority as the American people think it is. The priorities of the American government conflates dependency on foreign oil with other foreign problems that, if they examined many problems around the world more carefully, they would see that it is the American people and their SUVs that fund those problems in the first place. this complacency is partly our own fault, for not hammering our leaders on this issue hard enough. likewise, you can complain to GM about building SUVs instead of electric cars, but we as Americans buy SUVs instead (until quite recently)

    we need electric cars supported by a new wave of modern nuclear power plants. of course there are better sources of electricity than nuclear, but most of these are boutique and cannot scale like nuclear can. this includes wind and solar. but i don't really care to champion nuclear that much as i care about the need to get off foreign oil, any way possible. so please, invest in solar and wind as well, let us find new ways for nonnuclear tech to scale

    modern nuclear via pebble bed reactors just does not go chernobyl, and via breeder reactors waste in lifespan and quantity is dramatically reduced (1/10th quantity of waste, a few centuries instead of 10,000 years of radioactivity, and lower radiation levels of safer forms of radiation). breeder reactors also dramatically increasing energy yeild, and allow us to use thorium as well as uranium. security concerns are real with nuclear technology, but if we spent 1/1000th of the amount of money and lives we spend securing our petroleum in iraq on securing breeder reactors instead (they make plutonium, that's the danger with breeder reactors), we would still be many orders of magnitude safer than our current status quo of funding terrorism and russian imperialism and anti-american jingoism like we do now. of course even thorium will run out in a century or two, but if we haven't mastered fusion technology by then, we are doomed anyways, or would have found a way to scale wind and solar by then

    zero reliance on foreign petroleum by 2025. whoever enunciates that idea the loudest amongst a range of candidates in any contest before you, elect them to Senator/ President/ Congressman/ Dogcatcher

    if petrodollars were to dry up on the international stage, many of the intransigent problems that all peoples of the world face today, not just Americans face, would dry up as well

    thems the facts. get with it America

    no more foreign petrodollars. stop feeding your damn SUVs

    • So true. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FatSean (18753) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:28PM (#24602931) Homepage Journal

      Whenever I saw those damn "If you smoke pot, you're supporting terrorist" all I could think about was the distasteful regimes we buy our oil from.

      Well said.

      • caveat (Score:3, Interesting)

        if you shoot heroin, you really do support the taliban and al qaeda. especially if you shoot heroin in europe

        its funny, but the only positive effects the taliban had in afghanistan while they were in power was they utterly destroyed the opium trade there (the ONLY positive effect. blowing up ancient buddhas, beheading prostitutes and adulterers and prodiving a safe haven for bin laden and his jolly crew was their real achievements.)

        before 9/11/01, american drug officials would fly over opium growing regions

  • Can-do spirit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by szquirrel (140575) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:22PM (#24602821) Homepage

    Not only is this a great example of the American can-do tradition, hopefully it will also go a long way toward dispelling the myth that cars are too complicated for "regular people" to deal with.

    Think about it. When my parents were graduating from high school (1969) it was a given that people would know the basics of how to service a car. For guys especially, it was just something that guys "should" know. These days the attitude is more like, "meh, it's too complicated, leave it to the experts".

    Let's hear it for can-do, rather than pay-someone-else-to-do.

  • SUE! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:26PM (#24602891) Journal

    Americans are taking energy policy in their own grease-stained hands."

    How dare they??? I want government oversight of this dangerous endeavor immediately! I want it taxed, and regulated and I want government subsidies.

    How dare people do things without asking for government permission!

    They need to make sure that these vehicles can pass all the safety regulations. You know, to protect the children. Do it for the Children! Won't anyone think of the children????

    OMG This is crazy. These people are Terrorists! They are out to destroy America! How dare they!

    And don't forget Illegal Aliens. I know they are involved somewhere.

  • by nsayer (86181) <[moc.ufk] [ta] [reyasn]> on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:31PM (#24602997) Homepage

    I would love an electric car. But a few times a year, I drive from the Bay Area to San Diego. This [mrsharkey.com] is the perfect solution to the problem.

  • by Banekartr (1058752) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:32PM (#24603043)
    According to the U.S. Department of Energy (in 2003)... Oil Demand by Sector: Transportation 68% Industrial 23% Residential 4% Electricity Generation 3% Commercial 2% The US does not depend on oil for electricity. The US creates 49% of its electricity from coal, 19.4% nuclear, 20% natural gas, and 7% hydroelectric. The left over is made in other ways, but only 1.6% of the power generated in the US is actually produced from OIL. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/figes1.html [doe.gov] Priority 1 here should be energy independence with transportation, based on the numbers. Our ability to create electricity has almost nothing to do with oil.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:44PM (#24603257) Journal

    Stealing precious tax dollars from fuel tax so they can drive their tax free electric vehicles all over town on road they haven't paid for!!!

    Someone contact the MPAA (Motorcar Pavement American Association) and the RIAA (Roadway Improvement Advancement Association).

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @02:53PM (#24603423) Homepage

    The bicycle industry seems to be one of the last bastions of Yankee ingenuity, where small entrepreneurs make a successful business out of a few thousand square feet of floor space, some machine tools, and a few dozen employees. Once you get beyond the Huffies in Wal*Mart, a large percentage of the $500-and-up bicycles seem to be made by large numbers of small companies. But I don't think this is going to happen with cars.

    The bicycle craze and the horseless carriage fad hit the U. S. at roughly the same time, maybe 1895 or thereabouts. An 1896 Boston Globe article quotes a livery stable operator as being worried by bicycles but dismissing the horseless carriage as "a pack of French nonsense." At the time, bicycles represented a high level of mechanical and engineering sophistication. It's not surprising that the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics; bicycles, early automobiles, and early airplanes were not at terribly different levels of complexity.

    Not any more. (Pace, members of the Experimental Aircraft Association; I know that there are people still building airplanes in their garage).

    But I don't see cottage-industry carmaking as going much of anywhere. For one thing, it's not about the car, it's about the battery. I don't think great breakthroughs in batteries are going to be the province of cottage-industry entrepreneurs.

    In the 1900s, electric cars had a range of about thirty miles. In the intervening time, advances in batteries have been counterbalanced by increased expectations of what a car should do, and I find it very discouraging that the Chevy Volt should have a promised electric range of only forty miles.

    The brilliance of the Prius (which uses a fundamental design worked out by the U. S. company TRW in the last sixties, who couldn't get U. S. carmakers interested in it) is that it achieves something significant without requiring revolutionary new batteries made of unobtainium. The battery is just a short-term buffer that makes up the difference between the torque required for normal driving and the torque obtainable from a small, fuel-efficient engine. But it does so by being mechanically and electronically very sophisticated. I don't think anyone could cobble up a Prius-style hybrid engine in a small machine shop.

    I'd love to see a disruptive-technology electric car emerge from small companies, but I don't think it will happen.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @03:14PM (#24603779) Journal
    Saturn AMP is just one. There is room for many businesses to start up doing conversions. In addition, this would be a good time for small manufacturing company to put together kit electric cars. Buy the frame, electric drive, then pick your chassis and batteries. You can assemble it yourself. Detroit is trying hard to keep their gas engines. But if a small business man was smart, they would make the kits such that others could sell the assembled kits, perhaps with add-ons. Heck, I could buy a kit car that did 80 MPH, had decent acceleration and got 50 Miles/ charge for $15K. Ideally, it would be a truck or a small SUV (crossover or whatever the new name is). But 50 miles/charge is fine here. To work and back, and then some. Out with the old and in with the new.
  • odd (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @03:15PM (#24603795)

    It is still both cheaper and more environmentally friendly to buy a use car with good millage.

    EVs make the best sports cars, period. Nothing competes with electric for performance. We should have been making electric sports cars 15 years ago. But soon Tesla & co. will finally push the internal combustion engine out of the high performance market.

    After EVs are dominating the sports car world they weill trickle down rapidly.

  • My dad bought an electric Renault a couple of years ago and after i took it for a spin i was totally lost. First of all an electric car has a very flat torque curve, it accelerates pretty evenly from standstill to 90 Km/h. Its easy to drive it very smoothly and elegantly. The next thing is sound, the car is dead silent until you hit 60+ km/h and road noise starts. Electric cars arent all about the enviroment.

    Myself i really want one but sadly you cant buy one no matter how much you are willing to spend. The demand is here but for some strange reason no western or japanese manufacturer wants the money. The Chinese on the other hand are getting up to speed very quickly and at current pace of development it wont be long before their EV's start pouring into the west.

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